Orrin Hatch releases dramatically new statement on abuse allegations against his former chief of staff

  • Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, issued two dramatically different statements regarding allegations that his former chief of staff abused both of his ex-wives.
  • The women publicly accused Rob Porter of engaging in a pattern of violence over a period of years.
  • Hatch first called the allegations "politically motivated," but then said he was "heartbroken" by the news.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah performed a remarkable about-face on Wednesday after the second major news outlet in a row published allegations of spousal abuse against Rob Porter, Hatch's former chief of staff.

Porter's two ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, both accused him of physically and mentally abusing them for years.

Porter resigned from his current role as President Donald Trump's White House staff secretary on Wednesday.

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Donald Trump and Orrin Hatch
WASHINGTON, D.C. - OCTOBER 18: (AFP-OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump, with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, speaks during a meeting with members of the Senate Finance Committee and his economic team October 18, 2017 at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 4: U.S. President Donald Trump shakes the hand of Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) as he arrives for a speech at the Rotunda of the Utah State Capitol on December 4, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Trump announced the reduction in size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments which were created by President Obama and Clinton. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump alongside US Senator Orrin Hatch (L), Republican of Utah, as they disembark from Air Force One upon arrival at Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah, December 4, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 18: President Donald Trump, flanked by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., left, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, right, speaks during a meeting with members of the Senate Finance Committee and members of the President's economic team in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
From left US Vice President Mike Pence, US President Donald Trump, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) and Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) greet each other before a meeting with lawmakers in the Roosevelt Room of the White House February 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 2: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hand with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) at the start of a meeting with Senate and House legislators, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, February 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Lawmakers included in the meeting were Hatch, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA). (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump is greeted by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) prior to speaking at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump hands a pen used to sign an executive order to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) after announcing big cuts to Utah's sprawling wilderness national monuments at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The Daily Mail first reported the allegations on Tuesday, obtaining an emergency protective order granted to Willoughby that declared "reasonably grounds exist to believe that [Porter] has committed family abuse and there is probably danger of a further such offense."

When the Daily Mail approached Hatch for comment on the Porter allegations, Hatch berated the outlet for publishing the claims and praised Porter as "kind and considerate" and "principled."

"It's incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man," Hatch said. "Shame on any publication that would print this — and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man's good name."

But The Intercept followed up on the Daily Mail's story on Wednesday, publishing photos Holderness took of black eye after Porter allegedly punched her on vacation in 2005.

The outlet also reported that Holderness and Willoughby informed the FBI of their allegations during Porter's background check conducted when he joined the White House.

Hatch then issued a remarkably different response.

"I am heartbroken by today's allegations. In every interaction I've had with Rob, he has been courteous, professional, and respectful. My staff loved him and he was a trusted advisor," Hatch said. "I do not know the details of Rob's personal life. Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent and unacceptable."

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