White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended President Donald Trump’s pushing of a conspiracy theory about Joe Scarborough on Tuesday and encouraged reporters to go after the MSNBC host, too.
McEnany faced several questions about Trump’s posting of a series of tweets Sunday and Tuesday that strongly implied Scarborough killed Lori Klausutis, who worked for him when he was a Republican congressman. She was found dead in his Florida office in 2001 while he was in Washington. The cause of her death was determined to be an undiagnosed heart condition, which caused her to collapse and hit her head.
When a reporter noted that Klausutis’s husband was pleading with Twitter to remove Trump’s tweets because of the pain they were causing, McEnany fired off a claim that Scarborough once joked about killing her with the late radio host Don Imus.
“I would note that the president said this morning that this is not an original Trump thought. ... In fact, in 2003 on Don Imus’ show, it was Don Imus and Joe Scarborough that joked about killing an intern, joked and laughed about it, so that was, I’m sure, pretty hurtful to Lori’s family, and Joe Scarborough himself brought this up with Don Imus.”
That’s not entirely true. It was Imus who made the joke on air, but he attributed it to Scarborough, who laughed in response. Mika Brzezinski, an MSNBC host married to Scarborough, tweeted shortly after McEnany’s press briefing that it was Imus who made the joke during a break and then repeated it on air.
But a reporter at the briefing called out McEnany on another point: President Trump should be held to a higher standard than Scarborough.
“This is different,” the reporter said. “He’s not a private citizen. He’s the president.”
McEnany replied by going after Brzezinski.
“If we want to start talking about false accusations, we have quite a few we can go through about Mika,” she said, adding, “Mika accused the president of being responsible for 100,000 deaths in this country. That’s incredibly irresponsible.”
Brzezinski’s comments were about the nearly 100,000 people in the U.S. who have died of COVID-19 under Trump’s administration, which has dismissed advice from public health officials on how to stop the spread of the disease.
Trump has also come under fire for pushing the use of the antimalaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment despite no evidence that it works and its links to deadly heart conditions. But McEnany managed to turn that criticism back on Scarborough on Thursday.
“Joe Scarborough should be held to account for saying people will die by taking hydroxychloroquine,” she said. “Never mind the millions of Americans and people across the world who take it for rheumatory arthritis and other reasons.”
But days earlier, a study of nearly 100,000 people found that the drug was linked to a higher risk of death when given to COVID-19 patients.