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Politics & Government

Dedicated Trump Supporter Is Concerned By Rob Porter Scandal

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Scottie Nell Hughes was an early supporter of Donald Trump, and she was often on cable news during the presidential campaign, defending her candidate at every turn. But the way the White House has handled the allegations of domestic violence against former White House aide Rob Porter has her concerned. She says the administration is missing a chance to speak out against sexual crimes and violence. Scottie Nell Hughes joins me now on the line from Nashville.

Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES: Thank you for having me on. This is a very important issue.

MARTIN: So let's focus in on where the president has been on this. His initial response to this story was to defend Rob Porter, saying he was a good guy; he hopes that he goes on to have a good career. Then he ultimately, after being pressured to say something, said harassment and abuse allegations, quote, "shatter and destroy the lives of the accused." Then yesterday, the president went a step further. He wanted to clear up his position on domestic violence. This is what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that, and it almost wouldn't even have to be said.

MARTIN: He had been pressured to speak publicly, not just in a tweet, because for many days, he had remained silent on this issue. Did the president's words there satisfy you?

HUGHES: Well, the way this entire situation has been handled has been less than satisfying, to be honest with you, from the very beginning. This is about trust, and this is trust in our White House that once again is being eroded. This time, however, it's being eroded within his own base, as his base elected him because they trusted his words. Even if they did not like his words, they trusted that he was telling them the truth.

Now we're finding that the timelines are not matching up, and then the people within the White House themselves are not helping the situation. So no, the president has not necessarily clarified the situation and clarified it in many Americans' minds, but especially his base right now is questioning, how did a man like Rob Porter, with the issues that he had in his background of domestic violence, rise to the rank of being the White House staff secretary?

MARTIN: Have you been disappointed more broadly with how the Republican Party has responded to the broader Me Too movement and this issue in particular?

HUGHES: Well, this is the issue that the Republican Party has to come to. We have to recognize that there is evil that exists within our own party. We can throw as much as we want at the liberals like Harvey Weinstein and even throw out Bill Clinton, but it doesn't work if you're not holding your own accountable. And right now, you're seeing across America 1 out of every 2 women have suffered sexual harassment in the workplace. One of out - out of every 4 have been touched by domestic violence - 99 percent of them, financial abuse.

This is a real issue happening amongst women. And for those in politics, it's starting to show off at the ballot box. We saw it with Roy Moore. We saw it with the engagement down this week in Sarasota in the special election in an overwhelmingly Trump district going for a female Democrat. So this is something that is going to start snowballing into 2018. Not only is it because of politics, but it's the right thing to do for Republican men to start holding our own accountable.

MARTIN: Let me ask you, though - you can't ignore the fact, Scottie, that the president himself has been accused by numerous women of sexual harassment and assault allegations - allegations he denies. Do you believe his accusers?

HUGHES: Anytime you take something and use it as a weapon - a political weapon, like what we saw six weeks before the election - that usually happens - the day after the election, the issue is dropped. That's not what needed to happen in this situation. Sexual harassment, domestic violence is a very real issue happening in America today. These women, they do need to be heard. Their stories need to be told. But let's not make this purely a political issue because then it usually dies the day after the election.

MARTIN: Scottie Nell Hughes - she is a Republican strategist. She joined us on Skype this morning. Scottie, thanks so much for your time.

HUGHES: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE AMERICAN DOLLAR'S "CHILL KINGDOM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.