Over the last 10 days, President Donald Trump has repeatedly insinuated that former Florida congressman (and current MSNBC anchor) Joe Scarborough may have been personally involved in the 2001 death of an aide in his district office.
Here’s Trump’s latest (of many) tweets on it – from 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. 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?”
None of this is, of course, true. Trump is referring to the death of a woman named Lori Klausutis 19 years ago. As The Washington Post reported back in 2017 (when Trump first started making these unfounded allegations against Scarborough):
“Authorities determined 16 years ago that she died after losing consciousness from an abnormal heart rhythm and collapsed, striking her head. She was discovered in Scarborough’s office in Fort Walton Beach, lying on her back with her head near a desk, according to a 2001 police report.”
The Post story notes that the medical examiner deemed Klausutis’ death an accident.
The President is wrong. This is not a cold case. There aren’t “many unanswered & obvious questions.” A 28-year-old woman died because of a previously undiagnosed heart condition. It is a tragedy. It is not a murder. And what Trump is doing is using Klausutis’ death to score points with his political base – no matter who it hurts.
Late last week, Klausutis’ widower wrote a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asking that Trump’s tweets be taken down. Here’s part of what Timothy Klausutis said:
“President Trump on Tuesday tweeted to his nearly 80 million followers alluding to the repeatedly debunked falsehood that my wife was murdered by her boss, former U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough. The son of the president followed and more directly attacked my wife by tweeting to his followers as the means of spreading this vicious lie…
“…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 apologized Tuesday to Klausutis, but said it would not take down the tweets. “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,” said a spokesman for the company.)
Let’s take this out of the political context for a second. Strip it down to the bare bones. And those are this:
A powerful person is using a massive megaphone to allege, contra facts, that another powerful person was responsible in some way for the death of a young woman. In so doing, the powerful person is dredging up terrible memories for those close to the woman – and forcing them to deal with her tragic death anew. All in service of hurting another very powerful person. The woman – and her family – are collateral damage.
Without names or politics included, that sort of behavior is the sort of thing we would condemn as despicable. Literally disgusting. The sort of thing that, societally, we would need to stand up against for fear that it would one day come for us and the ones we loved (and have lost).
Unfortunately because Trump has accelerated the already rapid politicization of, well, everything, we somehow have been tossed into some sort of faux-legitimate discussion of whether or not Scarborough had anything to do with this.
To which I would say this: HE DID NOT.
Look, if you want to hate Scarborough or me or any media figure because you think he (or we) are biased against Trump or something, that’s your right. But don’t follow the President’s lead in making the death of a 28-year-old woman some sort of political football.
There aren’t two sides on this one. This isn’t health care. Or taxes. Or even media criticism. This is the tragic death of a young woman, and a family that is being further traumatized by a President too selfish and too cruel to see what he is doing.
At root, this is about human decency. Do we want to live in a world in which a powerful person can use the death of a private individual to score political points? Is that the sort of thing that we now are willing to say is OK, roll our eyes and chalk it up to “politics?”
Not me. There’s a line that we as citizens of this country and the world – and not of any political party – need to draw. Always. And this is way, way over it.