The sun had not been up for an hour when the president of the United States, in his ninth tweet of the day, said MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough might be a murderer.
It’s an old claim, debunked by The Washington Post in 2017. Trump often smears those who challenge him. He has a long-running feud with the “Morning Joe” husband-and-wife team of Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
But it remains astounding to see the president make a thinly veiled murder accusation devoid of evidence. Many of the 18,000 false and misleading claims in our Trump database feature overheated rhetoric. Few of them rise to these vicious heights.
“Morning Joe” airs on MSNBC from 6 to 9 a.m. on weekdays. The hosts have been hammering the administration’s dysfunction in the face of the covid-19 pandemic, with Scarborough often taking Trump to task for “a blizzard of lies.”
This morning, the hosts also zeroed in on Trump’s contentious exchange with a CBS News reporter at a news conference Monday. Brzezinski and Scarborough both called Trump’s remarks “racist.” They ran a segment criticizing the Justice Department’s unusual move to drop the criminal case against Michael Flynn, a former Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. They interviewed Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who said of Trump: “He can’t handle women, particularly strong women, and we know that Trump is xenophobic, and it comes out time and again.”
Meanwhile, somewhere inside the White House, Trump was firing off tweets accusing Scarborough of possibly having murdered an aide in 2001.
Trump first lobbed this conspiratorial charge at Scarborough in November 2017. The president is referring to the 2001 death of Lori Klausutis, a 28-year-old aide who worked for Scarborough when he was a Republican member of Congress representing Florida’s 1st Congressional District.
The circumstances of Klausutis’s death have spawned conspiracy theories, but authorities never suspected foul play. Her death is not an unsolved mystery or a cold case waiting for answers. Klausutis’s death on July 20, 2001, was ruled accidental and the police concluded there was no reason to further investigate. A police investigator told The Post in 2017 that authorities had left “no stone unturned.” PolitiFact has given Trump’s claim its worst rating, “Pants on Fire.”
The medical examiner, Michael Berkland, determined that an abnormal heart rhythm caused Klausutis to lose consciousness and fall, fatally 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 police report.
The Fort Walton Beach police report from Aug. 6, 2001, noted that the medical examiner had determined that Klausutis died as a result of an acute subdural hematoma. The police report cited a letter from Berkland, stating that the injury was the result of trauma from a fall as she lost consciousness from “a probable cardiac arrhythmia secondary to valvular heart disease.” The day before she was found dead, Klausutis told a colleague she was not feeling well, according to the police report. She also told a mail carrier she was not feeling well.
Trump in his tweet asked why Scarborough had left Congress so “quickly and quietly,” implying a connection between Klausutis’s death and Scarborough’s resignation. In fact, the death occurred almost two months after Scarborough announced his resignation. Klausutis was looking for a new job when she died, and Scarborough was in Washington.
In a previous tweet from April 30, Trump said, “Then you have Psycho Joe ‘What Ever Happened To Your Girlfriend?’ Scarborough, another of the low I.Q. individuals!”
No one alleges, and no evidence shows, that Scarborough was romantically involved with Klausutis, who was married.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
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