Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy) are joining calls for President Donald Trump to quit pushing an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory accusing MSNBC host Joe Scarborough of murdering a woman who worked for him nearly two decades ago when he was a U.S. congressman.
The woman, Lori Kaye Klausutis, had an undiagnosed heart condition that led to her 2001 death at age 28. She fell and hit her head on a desk at Scarborough’s Florida office and was found the next morning.
A medical examiner determined that “there is no doubt that the head injury is as a result of a fall rather than a blow being delivered to the head by a moving object,” citing the specific injuries she had sustained. But Trump has repeatedly characterized the accident as a “cold case,” despite any evidence suggesting Scarborough or anyone else was culpable.
On May 12, he tweeted: “When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida. Did he get away with murder? Some people think so.” Trump doubled down on the conspiracy theory during a Tuesday afternoon press conference, falsely claiming the woman’s family wanted to “get to the bottom of it.”
“I know Joe Scarborough. Joe is a friend of mine. I don’t know T.J. Klausutis,” Romney wrote in a Wednesday morning tweet, referencing the deceased woman’s husband. “Joe can weather vile, baseless accusations but T.J.? His heart is breaking. Enough already.”
I know Joe Scarborough. Joe is a friend of mine. I don't know T.J. Klausutis. Joe can weather vile, baseless accusations but T.J.? His heart is breaking. Enough already.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) May 27, 2020
Another GOP lawmaker, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, expressed agreement in an unprompted exchange with reporters.
“He’s the commander in chief of this nation. It’s causing great pain to the family of the young woman who died, so I would urge him to stop it,” she said.
Klausutis’ husband, Timothy Klausutis has pleaded with Twitter to remove the president’s ugly tweets about his family’s loss, saying, “My wife deserves better.”
Last week, he sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, asking Dorsey to remove Trump’s tweets. New York Times technology columnist Kara Swisher obtained and published a copy of it on Tuesday.
“I’m a research engineer and not a lawyer, but I’ve reviewed all of Twitter’s rules and terms of service,” Klausutis wrote to Dorsey. “The President’s tweet that suggests that Lori was murdered — without evidence (and contrary to the official autopsy) — is a violation of Twitter’s community rules and terms of service. An ordinary user like me would be banished from the platform for such a tweet but I am only asking that these tweets be removed.”
Trump’s relentless theorizing has added to the family’s suffering, Klausutis said, writing that his wife’s sudden death is “the single most painful thing that I have ever had to deal with in my 52 years and continues to haunt her parents and sister.”
Trump defended his baseless commentary about the former congressman later on Tuesday, writing, “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.”
The episode prompted CNN anchor Anderson Cooper to tear into the president Tuesday night.
“What a little man. He’s just a little man. He’s the leader of the free world, and he is a little, little man,” Cooper said. “A self-proclaimed wartime leader — a leader in the midst, he says, of a transition to greatness for the country ― spreading falsehoods about a dead woman, despite the pain and the pleas of her husband and family and doesn’t have the guts to say he doesn’t care about what they think.”
Twitter, which has long ignored criticism about allowing many of Trump’s tweets to stand in apparent violation of its code of conduct, declined to remove the tweets about Lori Kaye Klausutis. On Tuesday evening, however, the company tagged misinformation in unrelated tweets posted by Trump ― for the first time ever.