While the U.S. approached 100,000 coronavirus deaths under Donald Trump‘s leadership on Tuesday, the president was busy devoting much of his Twitter energies to the 2001 death of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough‘s former intern, whom the president keeps claiming was “murdered,” without evidence.
Trump has referred to the supposed “cold case” three times over the last three days, and six times over the last month.
It’s not a cold case, and there is no evidence that her death was suspicious, previous reporting has shown.
The intern, Lori Klausutis, was found dead at Scarborough’s congressional office in Florida in 2001, while Scarborough was working in Washington, D.C., as a Republican Congressman. An autopsy revealed at the time that the 28-year-old had an undiagnosed heart condition and that it had caused her to pass out, the Associated Press reports. She fell, hit her head and died from that injury, the coroner ruled.
The coroner also said there was no evidence that Klausutis had been struck by another person, the AP has previously reported.
Nevertheless, Trump continues to accuse Scarborough of murder.
“When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida,” Trump tweeted on May 12. “Did he get away with murder? Some people think so.”
“Some people” appears to include Trump, who has been pushing this debunked conspiracy theory amid a long-running feud with Scarborough and his wife/Morning Joe co-host, Mika Brzezinski. Trump has tweeted about the supposed “cold case” nearly a dozen times since 2017, though he ramped up his attacks over the Memorial Day weekend in between rounds of golf.
Some treated the tweets as par for the course from Trump, who uses his Twitter account to promote conspiracy theories and lash out at real and imagined foes on a regular basis.
However, the late intern’s widower, Timothy J. Klausutis, was so upset that he pleaded with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to take down Trump’s tweets.
“My request is simple: Please delete these tweets,” he wrote in a letter to Dorsey dated May 21.
“There has been a constant barrage of falsehoods, half-truths, innuendo and conspiracy theories since the day she died,” he wrote. He added that Trump’s tweets seem to violate Twitter’s community rules and terms of service and that they should be taken down.
“I’m asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him — the memory of my dead wife — and perverted it for perceived political gain.”
Twitter responded by expressing sympathy for Klausutis, but it did not agree to take the tweets down.
“We’ve been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly,” Twitter said.
Scarborough has urged Trump to stop accusing him of such a serious crime, but the president has ignored those requests.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany deflected several questions about the tweets at a briefing on Tuesday afternoon.
“Our hearts are with Lori’s family at this time,” she said, before blasting Scarborough’s wife, Brzezinski, for criticizing Trump.
“Mika accused the president of being responsible for 100,000 deaths in this country,” she said.
Brzezinksi quickly responded on Twitter, accusing McEnany of “lying” about an on-air joke Scarborough made back in 2003.
“No lies can cover up the hatefulness of Donald Trump,” she tweeted.
Trump has said “I don’t take responsibility at all” for the United States’ slow response to ramping up its COVID-19 testing. He has also frequently applauded his own efforts against the virus while blaming others, including China and Democrat governors, for any missteps.
He congratulated himself for doing his job “well” on Twitter Tuesday, and claimed that he made “the right decisions.” He then complained that he wasn’t getting enough credit for doing a good job before launching into another of his favourite conspiracy theories: Obamagate.
Scarborough shared several stories about Klausutis on his own Twitter account on Tuesday, including a Washington Post column that called for Twitter to curb Trump’s tweets.
“Trump has no decency,” the column’s headline said. “It’s time for Twitter to show some.”
—With files from The Associated Press