02/19/2018 06:48 EST

Orrin Hatch Reportedly Apologizes To Rob Porter's Ex-Wives

The senator, who once employed Porter, explained why he defended him against domestic abuse allegations.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has reportedly apologized for defending his former chief of staff Rob Porter, who recently resigned from President Donald Trump’s administration following allegations that he abused his two ex-wives.

Hatch sent letters of apology to Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, the women told CNN. 

“It was a sincere apology for pain he may have caused us,” Willoughby told CNN. Neither woman disclosed the letters. 

Porter worked for Hatch before joining Trump’s White House as staff secretary. Hatch defended Porter after The Daily Mail broke the story that Porter had been verbally and physically abusive to Willoughby and Holderness, and confirmed a blog post Willoughby published in 2017 was about Porter. 

“It’s incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man,” Hatch told The Daily Mail at the time. “Shame on any publication that would print this ― and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name.” He called Porter “honest” and “principled.”

A day later, Hatch issued a second statement, saying he was “heartbroken” by the allegations and condemning domestic violence as “abhorrent and unacceptable.”

In his apology to Willoughby, Hatch “reiterated his explanation as to why his statement changed between the two Daily Mail articles,” she said.

 “I appreciate his apology,” Holderness added.

Holderness and Willoughby both have described abuse at the hands of Porter. Holderness released photos of a black eye she said Porter gave her punching her in the face while on vacation in Italy. Willoughby said she had to file a temporary protective order after Porter refused to abide by their separation agreement.

The White House also has struggled with its statements about Porter. Chief of Staff John Kelly at first stood by a statement calling Porter is “a man of true integrity and honor.” Kelly reportedly knew about the abuse accusations for months, but said Porter was out of his job 40 minutes after the allegations were confirmed to be credible. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Porter left his job “within 24 hours.”

“The president and the entire administration take domestic violence very seriously,” Sanders added last week.