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Two White House staffers have resigned after credible reports that they abused their wives, but those departures haven’t quieted the waters. If anything, the question of what President Donald Trump thinks about these episodes grew more pressing after Trump tweeted broadly about people accused of abuse in any form.
"People’s lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation," Trump tweeted Feb. 10. "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?"
When asked on Fox News why Trump hasn't publicly condemned men who beat their wives, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said there should be no doubt where he stands.
"The president has been very clear," Gidley said Feb. 12. "All forms of abuse, all forms of battery against women are deplorable and disgusting."
Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade interjected, "But he hasn’t said that."
"You haven’t talked to him today," Gidley said. "Obviously, he’s said that multiple times in the past. I’ve talked to the president about issues surrounding this type of behavior and he finds it disgusting."
Still, whatever Trump's private thoughts might be, he has held his tongue in the present controversy involving his former aide Rob Porter.
Trump did sign a statement about domestic violence. On Sept. 30, 2017, he proclaimed October 2017 as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
"I call on all Americans to promote the safety and liberty of the women, men, and children who are subjected to violent, intimidating, or controlling behavior at the hands of those closest to them," the proclamation read. "Each of us must be a voice for those suffering in silence and must speak up when we see signs of physical or emotional abuse. Together we can bolster victims’ support networks and encourage and empower them to report offenses."
That was one of more than 100 proclamations Trump has signed on topics ranging from National Financial Accountability Month to Irish-American Heritage Month.
On domestic violence, publicly, Trump has yet to follow through on his own call to action.
We searched the Nexis news database. We looked through his tweets. We found nothing that came from him in his own words recently and clearly decrying domestic abuse as a disgusting act.
The closest we found was in 2015 when Trump attacked Hillary Clinton for her husband’s behavior.
"If Hillary thinks she can unleash her husband, with his terrible record of women abuse, while playing the women's card on me, she's wrong," he tweeted Dec. 28, 2015.
Two years earlier, Trump chastised the military for failing to curtail rape and domestic violence within its ranks.
"Army officer who led a sexual abuse prevention unit was just fired after being charged with violently going after his wife. What is going on," Trump tweeted May 17, 2013.
He continued with, "General says that the Armed Forces will be severely weakened if the large scale rape and sexual abuse problem is not brought under control."
The White House pointed to Trump’s 2012 comment related to singer Rihanna’s personal life.
"If @rihanna is dating @chrisbrown again then she has a death wish," Trump tweeted Oct. 11, 2012. "A beater is always a beater--just watch!"
There are press reports that in private Trump has taken a more negative view, though we can't independently verify them because they are based on anonymous sources.
Significantly, Trump praised Porter in public after he resigned.
"He did a very good job when he was in the White House," Trump told the TV cameras Feb. 9. "And we hope he has a wonderful career, and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him. But it was very sad when we heard about it. And, certainly, he’s also very sad."
Even some Republicans have said they want more from Trump. In an interview with CNN on Feb. 13, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said "abuse is never okay" and should not be tolerated among employees.
Asked if the president is sending that signal, Ernst said, "I think he needs to send a stronger message, a stronger message."
Gidley said that on many occasions, Trump has said that abuse of women is disgusting and deplorable. Trump may have said such things privately, but his public stance has been quite different.
Trump did sign a proclamation on domestic violence and — years ago, on Twitter — berated the military for allowing rape and abuse to undermine military readiness. But Trump has not conveyed his personal thoughts against domestic abuse when asked about the Porter case directly, and Gidley's comment left viewers with the wrong idea.
Instead, Trump came out against a rush to judgment against those broadly accused of taking advantage of women, which might include physical abuse. And he described Porter's situation as "very sad" and wished him well in his career.
If there’s a pattern of Trump decrying violence against women, it hasn’t left much of a visible trail. We rate this claim False.
Fox News, Fox and Friends, Feb. 12, 2018
Donald Trump, Tweet, Feb. 10, 2018
Donald Trump, Tweet, Oct. 11, 2012
Donald Trump, Tweet, Dec. 28, 2015
Donald Trump, Tweet, May 17, 2013
Factba.se, Trump, accessed Feb. 13, 2018
White House, Remarks by President Trump During Visit with Shane Bouvet and Donald Bouvet, Feb. 9, 2018
White House, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Feb. 12, 2018
White House, President Donald J. Trump Proclaims October 2017 as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Sept. 30, 2017
CNN, Sen. Ernst 'extremely disappointed' by Porter, Feb. 13, 2018
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