On Thursday, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro joined former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCullum to discuss the White House and its dealings with White House aide Rob Porter, who has been accused of being abusive to two ex-wives and a girlfriend and resigned on Wednesday.
MacCullum introduced the subject by noting the White House was under fire for keeping Porter on so long, and that one official who was accused of knowing about the allegations was White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. The White House said on Thursday that Kelly only learned the full extent of Porter’s alleged abuse on Wednesday.
MacCullum played video of various people criticizing the White House for not firing Porter before, then asked Shapiro his thoughts about Porter’s sudden fall from grace. Shapiro responded:
No question, it’s a major fall for him, but it seems like a fall that is well-deserved from the credibility of the allegations, and of course, we’ve got multiple allegations from multiple different women. You have a police action that was filed against him, a temporary restraining order. The real question is what did John Kelly know, and even if he only knew some of the allegations why would he allow Rob Porter to get so close to the president? That really is the question to me, because it’s clear to me from what Kelly has said, what the administration has said, he didn’t, for example, have access to the photo of the ex-wife who was hit in the face, and once that came out he changed his story. But when you’re in doubt, you gotta keep the president safe from the impact of having someone around him who’s gonna take a fall like this, and it just seems irresponsible to me if you know anything about these stories to allow anyone with those allegations floating around about them to be that close to the president. It wounds the president; it puts the president in a vulnerable position.
MacCullum noted that Shapiro was concerned about the danger to national security posed by such a situation, then pointed out that Porter’s first wife said that people who knew Porter thought him a model citizen. She turned to Fleischer, saying, “This is clearly somebody who had a pretty good Jekyll and Hyde routine going.”
And I think that explains why people at the White House said what they said about him. Look, this is human nature; it has nothing to do whether you work at the White House or work in a school or wherever you are. If there’s somebody you know you admire, that you like, you say that, and it’s reflected in what you think, because that’s how they behave at the office. They may have a totally separate way of acting when they go home, and perhaps that’s what the case is here. In all fairness to Rob Porter, he has denied this, and that is important; we do have to have two sides; and I think that would explain that then, when people could be so shocked, that he’s such a great guy at the office, we don’t know what he’s like at home. And then you have to be precise in your language, when you say, “was he aware of this?” What exactly is “this”? Is it that there’s a picture of him with a wife who has a black eye? Or is it that there are allegations of difficulties in a marriage and we don’t know all the facts yet. This is just where you have to let the investigators really tell you, what do you know, what was precisely conveyed and said.
MacCallum played a clip of Principal Deputy White House Secretary Raj Shah asserting, “I think it’s fair to say we all could have done better over the last few hours, or last few days in dealing with this situation.” MacCullum said, “The White House accepting some blame there. Ben?”
I think that’s exactly the right move, and it’s one of the rare times I’ve seen the White House actually say, “Listen, we may have made a mistake here.” You’re gonna buy an awful lot of credibility from the press and from the public when you say, “Listen, we didn’t have all the information, as we got all the information it became clear that we jumped the gun on this." And that obviously should have been their first response, is “We’re gathering all the information; these allegations are obviously very disturbing.” I think the reason why John Kelly is in some trouble here is because he made such a strong defense of Rob Porter and then had to go back on it. But acknowledging when you make mistakes, a lot of people in politics see that as a weakness; I think that that’s actually a strength when it comes to the PR efforts for the Trump White House.
MacCallum noted the media “pile-on” on Kelly lately, noting his comments about DACA recipients that triggered criticism, then commenting, “It feels like there’s some long knives out for him.”
Shapiro agreed: “It does feel like that. It feels like, there’s a feeling that John Kelly, if he’s the guy who’s protecting the president, and if he’s the guy who’s not holding the president back, I think the press wanted Kelly to be the guy who was sort of holding a leash on Trump, and of course, that’s not Kelly’s job. Kelly’s job is to organize the White House in a better way. It feels like there’s some vulnerability for Kelly now, and the press is jumping on it because they’d like to see the White House return to something more chaotic, as it was earlier before Kelly sort of took the reins here."
MacCullum turned back to Fleischer: “Ari, last thought?”
Fleischer: “Yup. That’s exactly right, what Ben said. I’ve been around Washington long enough to know that any time somebody goes after staff they’re really going after the boss. That’s what this is about. This is a way of taking another shot at Donald Trump. Staff is interchangeable; it doesn’t matter who they are; you pick up the staffer and you go after them because you really want to take down the president. And in this case, too, I think there’s a lot of Democrats in media who don’t like John Kelly any longer; they liked him when he came in and created order, when he was an improvement, but now that they see he’s ideologically conservative, yeah, let’s throw him out too, I think there’s a lot of that going on.”