There’s a striking similarity between the reaction of Governor Reynolds to sexual harassment at the Iowa State Capitol and President Trump’s failure to offer sympathy to the two abused ex-wives of his key staffer.
It was revealed last week that Rob Porter, a key White House staffer, had never received security clearance because of evidence of a history of domestic abuse. Following Porter’s resignation, Trump praised Porter and suggested he was innocent and wished him well. President Trump refused to offer any sympathy to Porter’s ex-wives that suffered the abuse.
“We hope he has a wonderful career and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him,” Trump told reporters. “He also as you probably know says he is innocent and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he is innocent.”
Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, said she was floored when she heard President Trump defend her ex-husband and wrote in an op-ed for Time magazine. “My friend turned to me and said, ‘the President of the United States just called you a liar.’ Yes. And so he did.”
Willoughby continued, “(Trump’s) words ‘mere allegation’ and ‘falsely accused’ meant to imply that I am a liar … That the work Rob was doing in the White House was of higher value than our mental, emotional or physical well being. That his professional contributions are worth more than the truth. That abuse is something to be questioned and doubted.”
Willoughby’s experience is similar to Kirsten Anderson, the former Iowa Republican Senate Majority Communication Director, who was fired hours after alleging widespread sexual harassment in the Senate office. Anderson has repeatedly criticized the leadership of the Republican Party for refusing to support her as she warned of the toxic work environment in the Republicans’ office.
Anderson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit and the jury initially awarded Anderson $2.2 million in damages and eventually settled for $1.75 million. Many other staffers came forward and corroborated Anderson’s claims of rampant sexual harassment in the Republican Senate leadership offices.
Bill Dix, the Senate majority leader has continued to claim Anderson wasn’t fired for raising the issue of sexual harassment but rather due to her poor work performance. Republicans failed to fire the primary harasser identified in Anderson’s July, 2017 trial. They allowed him to remain and work in the office for an additional two months until September, 2017. Just as Trump allowed Porter to resign, Iowa Republicans allowed Anderson’s harasser to resign as well.
Anderson’s lack of support from Iowa Republican leadership sounds very familiar to President Trump’s refusal to offer support to Porters ex-wives.
Anderson said she felt totally alone in 2014 when she attempted to bring to light the intolerable ongoing sexual harassment in the Republican office. Anderson raised the alarm on the “Republican old boys club” culture and was fired for her efforts.
“The party’s let me down,” she said. “I was hurt that I didn’t hear anything from Governor Reynolds and Senator Ernst. Truly… The party has changed as a whole over the last few years, which is not what I want to be a part of…Oh, it made me so pissed.”
Governor Reynolds finally mentioned the Republicans’ sexual harassment scandal in her Condition of the State address in January. “All of us in public office must ensure not only a safe workplace but serve as a model for the public and private sector.”
Anderson tweeted this to Reynolds following that speech. “Without proactive solutions, it’s simply political pandering. Now is the time for accountability on #harassment. She should’ve acted swiftly 4.5 yrs. ago.”
Why did it take Iowa Republican leaders nearly 5 years and a $1.75 million penalty levied against Iowa taxpayers to get them to listen? Why did they fire Anderson, the honorable whistle blower, and refuse to listen to the warnings that she raised in 2014?
It certainly appears that Republicans at both the state and national levels just don’t get it. The #MeToo movement has arrived and women will no longer tolerate Republicans that condone sexual harassment, speak glowingly of wife abusers and fail to act to end the locker room talk of the “old boys club.”
by Rick Smith