President Donald Trump and his oldest son can tweet unfounded murder accusations against his critics without consequence, at least not from tech giant Twitter.
Trump has repeatedly and without a shred of evidence suggested that MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough might have killed 28-year-old intern Lori Klausutis, who died in 2001 after she hit her head on a table. She had an undiagnosed heart condition and her tragic death was ruled an accident.
There should be “a long overdue Florida Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough,” Trump tweeted earlier this month.
“Did he get away with murder? Some people think so,” Trump tweeted in another post.
Lori Klausutis’ widower, Timothy Klausutis, wrote a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last week pleading for the company to remove Trump’s tweets:
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. 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.
“My request is simple: Please delete these tweets,” Klausutis said.
Following the letter, Twitter issued a tepid response skirting responsibility while making clear that the company wouldn’t be taking action against the president’s tweets.
“We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
In answer to a followup email from HuffPost asking what those expanded “features and policies” will be, Twitter declined to comment. And when asked if the president’s tweets violate Twitter’s own rules against abuse and targeted harassment, a spokesperson said only that “we’ve nothing further to share at this time.”
As Klausutis’ letter points out, it wasn’t just the president who spread the conspiracy theory but his son as well. Donald Trump Jr. has been instrumental in publicizing the fake allegation.
“What show is Joe going to go on to discuss Lori Klausutis?” Trump Jr. tweeted in April to his more than 5 million followers.
And following an opinion piece on Tuesday by New York Times contributing writer Kara Swisher ― who first reported Klausutis’ letter ― Trump Jr. used the widower’s grief to paint his father as a victim of censorship.
“The NY Times is calling for Twitter to censor the Pesident [sic] of the United States,” Trump Jr. tweeted about Swisher’s call for Twitter to delete the president’s false tweets. “If they can push for that who won’t they try to censor next? Given silicon valley’s leftist tendencies you all better watch out, they are coming for all of you.”
The president, meanwhile, seems sure of his impunity. Hours after the letter became public, Trump again accused Scarborough of possibly being a murderer.
“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,” Trump said in one tweet.
“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,” Trump said in another tweet. “So many unanswered & obvious questions, but I won’t bring them up now! Law enforcement eventually will?”
Law enforcement likely won’t bring up “questions” because ― again ― there is no evidence of a crime.