The husband of a woman whose 2001 death Donald Trump has repeatedly used for a political smear has demanded that Twitter take down tweets in which the president spreads the “horrifying” lie that the woman was murdered.
Twitter said it would not delete the tweets.
Trump has spread the pernicious lie about the death of Lori Klausutis as a means of attacking a television host, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC. With his wife, Mika Brzezinski, Scarborough frequently criticizes Trump on the Morning Joe program. The president has also attacked Brzezinski in brutally personal terms.
Scarborough employed Klausutis, 28, at the time of her death in July 2001, when he was a Republican congressman from Florida. Klausutis died from a head injury in a fall caused by a previously undiagnosed heart condition, according to the local medical examiner.
Some far-left websites spread a smear at the time that Klausutis died from foul play and that Scarborough, who was 1,000 miles away in Washington at the time, was somehow involved.
Those smears have been regularly debunked, including recently by the Washington Post Fact Checker, which gave the claim “Four Pinocchios”, a rating saved for the most egregious lies.
“We wish we had more to give,” the Post said.
Timothy Klausutis, a civilian US air force contractor, has very rarely commented on lies spread about his wife’s death.
In his letter to Dorsey, he wrote: “Her passing 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.
“The frequency, intensity, ugliness, and promulgation of these horrifying lies ever increases on the internet. These conspiracy theorists, including most recently the president of the United States, continue to spread their bile and misinformation on your platform disparaging the memory of my wife and our marriage.”
Trump ignored the appeal, tweeting anew on Tuesday morning about “the opening of a Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough”. Previously, he tweeted: “Did he get away with murder? Some people think so.”
Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr, has also taken up and spread the message, and at a briefing on Tuesday, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, deflected questions on the matter.
“I don’t know if the president’s seen the letter,” she said, “but I do know our hearts are with Lori’s family at this time.”
McEnany also said “it’s Joe Scarborough that has to answer these questions” and attacked the host and Brzezinski, saying they should be “held to account for their falsehoods”.
In his letter, Klausutis wrote: “The president’s tweet that suggests that Lori was murdered – without any 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.
“I am now angry as well as frustrated and grieved. I understand that Twitter’s policies about content are designed to maintain the appearance that your hands are clean, you provide the platform and the rest is up to users. However, in certain past cases, Twitter has removed content and accounts that are inconsistent with your terms of service.
“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.
“I would also ask that you consider Lori’s niece and two nephews who will eventually come across this filth in the future. They have never met their aunt and it pains me to think they would ever have to ‘learn’ about her this way.”
Twitter has in the past removed posts that violated its community rules and terms of service, and it has banned users who are repeat offenders.
But in a statement on Tuesday morning, a spokesperson said the company would not remove the president’s tweets.
“We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family,” the spokesperson said.
“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.”
On air last week, Brzezinski called Trump a “cruel, sick, disgusting person”.