Abuse allegations and the White House: An elephant in the room


President Donald Trump arrives for an event in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, about additional leadership in the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU.) At left is Johnathan Holifield executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

In the past few weeks, the White House and two of its officials: White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter and member of President Trump and his administration’s speechwriting team David Sorensen – have been under intense criticism for recently surfaced domestic abuse allegations.

In the week of Feb. 5 alone, both administration officials resigned. This brings attention to the matter of background checks, as it seems both officials had “ongoing background checks,” but their positions did not require security clearance. Security clearance enables individuals, most typically employees, to access secured or confidential information after undergoing an intense background check. The background checks should have uncovered these existing abuse allegations against Porter and Sorensen. In the White House’s defense, Porter, a top official, did not have “full security clearance,” and Sorensen’s job did not require it. Nevertheless, this brings to mind a crucial question regarding ethics and morals: Why isn’t our administration openly condemning these actions?

We live at the peak of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement. We are ready to make those who have abused and oppressed other human beings accountable for their actions. Yet, here lies our current administration refusing to hold people accountable for actions of such a serious nature as domestic abuse. These officials hold a much more crucial role in American society than reality television stars and celebrities do, but are not being held accountable to the extent they should be. Instead, as always, Trump is taking the middle ground, where he seems to believe he won’t be seen as siding with either the victim or the accused – as was similarly observed when the Unite the Right Rally shook the nation last summer. Trump made the nonchalant assertion that “very fine people” were on both sides. His evident lack of open reproof was viewed as a weak move by many, including politics reporter Chris Cillizza, who dubbed it an “incredibly unpresidential statement.”.

In the same vein, Trump didn’t even come close to condemning the actions of Porter and Sorensen despite how the U.S. is finally creating platforms and movements to empower victims of sexual and domestic abuse to finally speak up.  Instead, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on his behalf that he and the current administration “take domestic violence very seriously and believe all allegations need to be investigated thoroughly.” Once again, there is no open condemnation on Trump’s behalf – like always, he is taking the middle ground where it is hard to tell if he has any clear stance on the issue.

So, with the White House and even our president not condemning the actions of men like Porter, what exactly can we expect for future scandals? The condolences and the apologies are endless, but there remains a pressing issue: It is unethical to have allowed individuals like Porter and Sorensen to hold such fundamental roles in our administration without a thorough background check and without being held accountable for their actions. A part of our society is beginning to grant awareness to these issues, but behavior and irresponsibility from our top politicians is perpetuating them and almost making them seem ok.

Daniela Paredes is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at daniela.paredes@uconn.edu.

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