Jessica Corbett is in hiding.
The 32-year-old ex-wife of a White House speechwriter she accused of domestic violence says she’s humiliated and hoping her life can return to normal soon.
Speaking on the phone from an undisclosed location outside of Maine, the Portland resident talked to the Press Herald at length Sunday about how she ended up in Maine, a long way from her childhood in southern Georgia, and how she met her husband at the Maine State House. She also spoke of the fear she said she faced by deciding to make her accusations public, and the mixed feelings she has over the outcome of doing so.
Corbett’s former husband, David Sorensen, resigned his White House job Friday, the same day The Washington Post published a story detailing her accusations against him.
Corbett said she left Maine nearly two weeks ago after starting to talk to The Washington Post about her 2½-year marriage to Sorensen, a former aide to Gov. Paul LePage and spokesman for the Maine Republican Party.
It is a relationship that before the Trump administration and the rise of the #metoo movement would not have gained the attention of the national press. Now with the White House embroiled over its employment of two aides facing domestic abuse allegations – White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned two days before Sorensen for alleged abuse of two ex-wives – Corbett is being sought out by national morning talk shows and newspaper reporters. She said speaking out has been painful and embarrassing.
“The humiliation I’ve endured is why other victims suffer silently and that is the only reason I am speaking up,” Corbett said Sunday.
She said that just before the Post’s story detailing her accusations against Sorensen was published Friday, she spent the night in a hotel out of concern for her personal safety, although she did not mention any threats against her. She has avoided the internet since the publication to avoid nasty online comments about her, but said her family has kept her apprised of what’s been said. Aside from the night in the hotel, she said Sunday was the first time she has emerged from her “hiding place” out of state to go to church.
ACCUSATIONS OF ABUSE
Corbett and Sorensen have traded accusations against each other.
Corbett told the Post that during her marriage to Sorensen, he ran a car over her foot, put out a cigarette on her hand, threw her into a wall and grasped her menacingly by her hair while they were alone on their boat in remote waters off Maine’s coast, an incident she said left her fearing for her life.
In a statement Friday night, Sorensen said he had “never committed violence of any kind against any woman in my entire life.”
“In fact, I was the victim of repeated physical violence during our marriage, not her,” he said.
Sorensen alleged that Corbett punched him on multiple occasions. After one such episode, he said, he tried to leave in his car and she ran after him as he was pulling away, injuring herself in the process. In another incident, he said, she grabbed the steering wheel as he drove on a highway and punched him in the face during an argument.
Several Maine Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate Mary Mayhew, have come came to Sorensen’s defense. On Sunday, longtime Yarmouth divorce lawyer Joanne Fryer, a friend of Sorensen, spoke out about what she called an effort by The Washington Post “to hurt John Kelly and the president.” Kelly is President Trump’s chief of staff.
Fryer, who is active in Maine Republican circles and socialized with the young couple, said Corbett sought her advice at one point about how to proceed with a divorce. Fryer said it was clear to her that Corbett was not the victim of domestic abuse. Fryer said that had she detected any sign of domestic abuse, she would have reported it as she is mandated to do.
“I would have jumped all over that. I felt very confident that this was not a case where she was abused,” Fryer said.
THE MOVE TO MAINE
Corbett got involved in Republican politics while a student at the University of Florida, where she would throw political tailgate parties at college football games. She joined the Marco Rubio Senate campaign early on and then worked with former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s ill-fated run for president. In 2012, she got a call from Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason asking her to interview for a consulting job for the Maine Senate Republicans.
“I met David on the day I came up for the interview,” she said.
She got the job and moved to Maine a month later and soon Sorensen sought her out.
“I was working out of the offices of the Maine Republican Party and he walked in and asked me out on a date,” she said Sunday.
The couple bought a house at 9 Fairbanks St. in Augusta, known among their young circle of Republican friends as “the Fairbanks lounge.”
Corbett went on from the Senate Republicans to work for U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s campaign and since then has worked as a consultant for various candidates and campaigns around the country.
She and Sorensen were married in Hawaii aboard a sailboat on Dec. 13, 2014. The marriage lasted for two years before they separated. The divorce became final this past September.
Corbett said she decided to stay in Maine after that.
“I escaped to Portland. People were asking me to move to Michigan or go back to Washington, D.C. I didn’t want to make one big life decision in the wake of another, so I went to Portland. That is where I fell in love with Maine,” Corbett said.
Corbett said she told the FBI about the alleged abuse when she was interviewed in October during the agency’s background check of Sorensen for his speechwriting job.
Corbett said she was recently approached by a reporter at a national media company about taking part in a story about political campaigns but she wasn’t the right fit for the story. The reporter passed on Corbett’s story about domestic abuse to a reporter at The Washington Post.
She heard from a Washington Post reporter on Jan. 30. The White house learned of the abuse accusations Thursday and confronted Sorenson, who quit Friday, saying he didn’t want to become a political distraction for the White House.
For now, Corbett said, her life has been turned upside down.
“I am in a black hole,” she said.
She said she is waiting for the day when she feels it is safe to return to the life she is making in the East End of Portland with her dog, Frank Underwood, a Wheaton terrier named after the protagonist played by Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards.” Her fiance, Stephen Greene, whom she met at a wedding, is planning to move to Portland soon. They are thinking about a summer wedding in Maine, she said.
She said Portland is the perfect city for her, given that as a Southerner and a Republican she is something of an anomaly.
“Only in that city could you be accepted and loved. That is what makes Portland so great,” she said.
Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: