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Twitter said Tuesday that the company is “deeply sorry” for the pain caused by President Trump’s tweets demanding an investigation of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough in the death of a young woman who died in 2001 in his office, but the social media company won’t remove them, despite an outraged plea from her husband.
The woman, Lori Klausutis, 28, worked for Scarborough, at the time a Republican congressman representing a district in Florida, and was found dead in his district office after she apparently fell and hit her head on the side of a desk, resulting in a fatal blood clot. A medical examiner ruled her death an accident, concluding Klausutis had an undiagnosed heart condition that caused her to collapse. There is no evidence linking Scarborough to her death.
Yet Trump has repeatedly suggested without evidence that Scarborough should be investigated for murder in what the president falsely calls a “cold case.”
Timothy Klausutis, the widower, wrote an outraged letter to Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, protesting Trump’s tweets accusing the MSNBC host of murdering her.
In the letter, Klausutis said Trump has “perverted” the memory of his late wife for political gain, and asked that the tweets be removed.
“As her husband, I feel that one of my marital obligations is to protect her memory as I would have protected her in life,” Klausutis wrote in the May 21 letter, which was obtained by the New York Times and published Monday. “There has been a constant barrage of falsehoods, half-truths, innuendo and conspiracy theories since the day she died.”
“My request is simple: Delete these tweets,” Klausutis continued. “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.”
Klausutis claimed that Trump’s tweet suggesting Lori was murdered is a violation of Twitter’s terms of service.
“An ordinary user like me would be banished from the platform for such a tweet,” he wrote. “But I am only asking that these tweets be removed.”
A spokesperson for Twitter said Tuesday that the company has no plans to remove them at this time.
“We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
Last week, with the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus mounting, Trump took aim at Scarborough, his wife and co-host, Mika Brzezinski, and MSNBC’s parent company, Comcast.
“‘Concast’ should open up a long overdue Florida Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough,” Trump tweeted, adding the hashtag in all caps: “#OPENJOECOLDCASE.”
The president did so again Tuesday morning.
“The opening of a Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough was not a Donald Trump original thought, this has been going on for years, long before I joined the chorus,” Trump tweeted. “In 2016 when Joe & his wacky future ex-wife, Mika, would endlessly interview me, I would always be thinking about whether or not Joe could have done such a horrible thing? Maybe or maybe not, but I find Joe to be a total Nut Job, and I knew him well, far better than most. So many unanswered & obvious questions, but I won’t bring them up now! Law enforcement eventually will?"
Critics have repeatedly complained that Trump’s conspiracy-laden tweets and falsehoods, reaching his 80 million Twitter followers, violate the social media platform’s terms of service. But the company has resisted calls to address them.
“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” the company said in 2018.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tried to defend Trump’s tweets during a press briefing Tuesday afternoon.
“I would note that this morning the president said that this is not an original Trump thought,” McEnany said, pointing to a 2003 segment on the late shock jock Don Imus's radio show in which, she said, Imus and Scarborough “joked about killing an intern.”
McEnany then went on the offensive, portraying Trump, not Klausutis, as the victim.
“Mika accused the president of being responsible for 100,000 deaths in this country,” McEnany said, referring to the mounting coronavirus toll. “That’s incredibly irresponsible. They’ve dragged his family through the mud.”
Brzezinski responded on Twitter.
“The Press Secretary is lying,” she tweeted. “IMUS made the callous joke in 2003 during a break and then repeated it on air. Joe was embarrassed and said, ‘What are you going to do?’ trying to move on to talk about the show. No lies can cover up the hatefulness of Donald Trump.”
Brzezinski added: “Donald Trump has no decency and refuses to show a trace of humanity toward a grieving widower. No lies can deflect the awfulness of his behavior. History will judge harshly those who defend this cruelty and callousness.”
She concluded her message with the hashtag “#Pleasedeletethosetweets.”
At a Rose Garden press conference later Tuesday afternoon, Trump was asked why he chose to spread a debunked conspiracy theory. He responded by claiming that “a lot of people” share his views.
“Hopefully someday people are going to find out,” Trump said. “It’s certainly a very suspicious situation. Very sad. Very sad and very suspicious.”
The president dismissed the letter from the family asking that Twitter remove his tweets, falsely suggesting that they, too, want to see an investigation into the case.
“I’m sure they ultimately want to get to the bottom of it,” the president said, noting there is no statute of limitations for serious crimes such as murder in the state of Florida.
“It’s a very serious situation,” Trump said.
Read Timothy Klausutis’s full letter to Twitter below.
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