Sen. Joni Ernst said Tuesday she is "extremely disappointed" in the White House’s handling of allegations of spousal abuse against former aide Rob Porter, calling on President Donald Trump to more forcefully speak out on the scandal.
"I think he needs to send a stronger message, a stronger message," Ernst said of Trump during an interview on CNN. "We need to allow women and men that have been abused to come out, make sure their stories are heard and believed."
The Iowa Republican called on officials to send to send a "very clear signal" that domestic violence "won’t be tolerated with our employees."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that Trump and the administration "take domestic violence very seriously" and that the president “above all … supports victims of domestic violence."
But Trump has yet to personally deliver remarks condemning Porter’s alleged behavior and failed mention Porter’s ex-wives or their accounts of spousal abuse in his response last week.
Over the weekend he appeared to take aim at the abuse allegations and the #MeToo movement, lamenting on Twitter that “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.”
Ernst also responded to reports that the White House sought to set up a briefing with four reporters to allow Porter to tell his story after pictures of his battered wives emerged last week.
"I think you can’t justify it," Ernst said. "You can’t justify that."
Over the years the president has consistently sympathized with accusers of gender violence rather than expressing support for its victims.
Ernst said Tuesday she believed in the accounts by Porter’s ex-wives.
"I do believe the women, yes, I do," she said.