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Ex-wife of Rob Porter pushes back against Donald Trump's defense

The ex-wife who accused ex-White House staffer Rob Porter of domestic abuse said her experience wouldn't be diminished.
Image: Jennifer Willoughby
Jennifer Willoughby.NBC News

The ex-wife who accused former White House staffer Rob Porter of domestic abuse said her experience wouldn't be diminished on Sunday after President Donald Trump expressed sympathy for his former aide.

In a powerful essay for Time, Jennifer Willoughby, one of Porter's ex-wives, said she felt as though the president had called her and Colbie Holderness, another of Porter's ex-wives, liars.

"The words 'mere allegation' and 'falsely accused' [are] meant to imply that I am a liar," she said in the essay. "That Colbie Holderness is a liar. That the work Rob was doing in the White House was of higher value than our mental, emotional or physical wellbeing. That his professional contributions are worth more than the truth. That abuse is something to be questioned and doubted."

Trump insisted last week that his former staff secretary was a man of integrity.

Related: Trump, angry at Chief of Staff Kelly, muses about possible replacements

"We wish him well," the president told reporters on Friday. "He worked very hard. Found out about it recently, and I was surprised by it. ... Obviously, tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was at the White House."

The president added: "We hope he has a wonderful career. ... Very sad when we heard about it. He's very sad. He also, as you probably know, he says he's innocent."

Trump later echoed his words on his favorite social media platform, Twitter, saying men accused of sexual harassment weren't provided their right to "due process" and expressing his sympathy for those accused, without mentioning accusers.

"Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation," the president said. "Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?"

Willoughby said in her article that no one should be surprised that Trump stood up for Porter instead of believing the women who accused Porter. Both women shared photos of blackened eyes.

"Everyone wants to talk about how Trump implied I am a not to be believed," Willoughby wrote. "As if Trump is the model of kindness and forgiveness. As if he readily acknowledges his own shortcomings and shows empathy and concern for others. I forgive him. Thankfully, my strength and worth are not dependent on outside belief — the truth exists whether the President accepts it or not."

CORRECTION (Feb. 12, 2018, 9 a.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated Willoughby’s first name. It’s Jennifer, not Jenna.