Men Like John Kelly Are the Reason the MeToo Movement Exists

Last night John Kelly issued a statement saying that he was “shocked” by the allegations of domestic violence against Rob Porter. That is a lie.

Porter’s ex-wives detailed the allegations to the FBI over the course of a routine background check, they told CNN’s MJ Lee on Wednesday. A year into the administration, Porter does not hold a security clearance.

By early fall, it was widely known among Trump’s top aides—including chief of staff John Kelly—both that Porter was facing troubles in obtaining the clearance and that his ex-wives claimed he had abused them. No action was taken to remove him from the staff.

Kelly’s statement went on to say that “every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation.” I agree with that. The trouble is, once Kelly knew about the allegations, he obviously did nothing to investigate them. Instead, “Kelly and others oversaw an elevation in Porter’s standing.”

That is precisely the kind of reaction the #MeToo movement was ignited to stand against. Historically, when allegations of sexual or physical violence against women are reported, our response has been to sweep them under the rug and pretend that they don’t matter. John Kelly’s reaction to Porter is a prime example of the problem.

I am reminded of something Kelly said during the press conference in which he blatantly lied about Rep. Frederica Wilson.

You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases.

Those comments were made just as the #MeToo movement was exploding on the scene. In a typical nod to those who believe in some kind of nostalgic, mythical past, Kelly suggested that the sexual abuse/harassment of women didn’t happen back then because “women were sacred, looked upon with great honor.” That is the lie that undergirds the kind of abuse Kelly chose to ignore when it came to someone like Porter.

Kelly can continue to try to don the aura of being some kind of patriarchal hero by saying things like “there is no place for domestic violence in our society” when put in the spotlight. But his actions demonstrate why there does seem to be a place for domestic violence in our society. As long as men like him sweep it under the rug, it will continue.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.