Ex-wife says Porter asked her to ‘downplay’ posts describing abuse
In an emotional interview Thursday, Jennie Willoughby, an ex-wife of Rob Porter, said the former-White House aide had asked her to downplay allegations of abuse she made last year on her Instagram account and in a blog post.
Speaking with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Willoughby said she “had been in contact with Rob a lot in the last two weeks as he gave me some warning that stories might break.”
“He had asked me multiple times to take down my Instagram post,” she said, referring to a post in which she described abuse in a general terms, but without using his name.
“In my home, the abuse was insidious,” she wrote on April 24, 2017. “The threats were personal. The terror was real. And yet I stayed.”
On Thursday, Willoughby also alleged Porter asked her to “downplay” a blog post entitled “Why I stayed” that she made on the same subject on April 24, 2017, “asking me to emphasize more the relationship that he and I have now as opposed to what I experienced in our marriage.”
Porter resigned Wednesday after Willoughby and his first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, came out with allegations of verbal and physical abuse and after CNN obtained and published a 2005 photo of Holderness with a black eye.
Both women said their ex-husband’s consistent abuse was the reason for their respective divorces.
Porter has denied the allegations in a statement issued in the wake of his resignation.
“These outrageous allegations are simply false,” he said in his statement. “I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.”
Later in the interview on Thursday, Willoughby expressed concern for the safety of White House communications director Hope Hicks, 29, who has been dating Porter.
“I don’t think he’s changed,” Willoughby told Cooper. “I don’t think that he has done the self-reflective work to acknowledge this issue. I don’t think that he has really taken the time to deconstruct why it is that he behaves this way, and until he’s able to do that, I don’t know that he has control over it.”
“If I’m being frank with you, if he hasn’t already been abusive with Hope, he will, and particularly now that he’s under a lot of stress and scrutiny,” she added. “That’s when the behaviors come out. If he hasn’t already, he will.”
“So you’re saying you’re worried about Hope Hicks?” asked Cooper, moments later.
“I am worried,” she replied.
In an earlier interview with CNN on Thursday, Willoughby, who married Porter in 2009, told CNN that she endured deeply disturbing emotional abuse from her ex-husband. During their honeymoon in Myrtle Beach, the bursts of anger that she had already become familiar with were “more intense,” she said.
“He started calling me names, calling me a ‘f—ing bitch,’ how I behaved was ‘f—ing ridiculous’ and most of that was instigated around my not having sex with him often enough on our honeymoon,” Willoughby said.
Around the spring of 2010, Willoughby said Porter came looking for her at their previously shared home and it appeared that he had punched a glass pane on the front door.
“The window on the door was broken and his hand was bleeding and he was requesting to be able to come in and seek medical attention. At that point, I was scared, and he also wasn’t supposed to be there to begin with,” she said.
The police eventually came and recommended that she take out a temporary protective order. CNN reviewed a copy of the order dated June 2010.
The only incident, Willoughby said, in which Porter physically abused her was in December of 2010.
“We were in a fight and I disengaged from the fight after screaming at each other. I took a shower and Rob followed me fairly shortly after and grabbed me from the shower by my shoulders up close to my neck and pulled me out to continue to yell at me,” she said. “He immediately saw the look of shock and terror on my face and released me and apologized and attempted to make things right.”
She said the two divorced in 2013.