While President Donald Trump’s allies largely stood silent as the president continues to push baseless murder conspiracies against Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough, several Republican lawmakers have sounded off and called out the president for peddling the lies.
Over the past several weeks, the president has repeatedly taken to his Twitter account to suggest that Scarborough murdered an aide in 2001 when he was a GOP congressman. Authorities found the staffer, Lori Klausutis, to have accidentally died in Scarborough’s Florida office due to an abnormal heart rhythm. The then-congressman, meanwhile, was in D.C. at the time of her death.
Despite Klausutis’ widower T.J. begging the president to stop publicly dragging out his wife and family to score political points, while unsuccessfully calling on Twitter to delete Trump’s tweets, the president has continued to use her death to attack the MSNBC host in retribution for Morning Joe’s critical coverage of him.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a somewhat moderate Republican who has been fairly critical of Trump in the past, was the first Republican to push back on the president’s conspiratorial rantings.
“Completely unfounded conspiracy. Just stop. Stop spreading it, stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us,” the Illinois congressman tweeted on Sunday in response to one of Trump’s more heinous tweets, which in addition to accusing Scarborough of murder alleged the TV host may have had an “affair” with Klausutis.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), an outspoken Trump critic whom the president has recently labeled a “loser,” became the first Republican senator to push back against the president.
“I know Joe Scarborough,” Romney tweeted Wednesday. “Joe is a friend of mine. I don't know T.J. Klausutis. Joe can weather vile, baseless accusations but T.J.? His heart is breaking. Enough already.”
Shortly after Romney’s online condemnation of the president, the third-ranking member of the House, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), also called out Trump while speaking to reporters.
“I do think the president should stop tweeting about Joe Scarborough,” she said. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic. He’s the commander in chief of this nation. And it’s causing great pain to the family of the young woman who died.”
Notably, Cheney had been asked to comment about face masks, and she took it upon herself to add her opinion about Trump’s continued obsession with accusing a cable-news host of murder.
By contrast, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), when directly asked to give his thoughts on the president’s weeks-long campaign to smear Scarborough while Klausutis’ family pleads with him to stop, claimed ignorance.
“I’m in the House of Representatives. I did not serve with Scarborough, I know he left early, I don't know anything about that,” he stated before deflecting when asked if Trump should stop tweeting about it.
The Trump White House, meanwhile, has attempted to justify the president’s actions by pointing to a 2003 clip in which Scarborough seemingly brushes off radio shock jock Don Imus joking about the intern’s death. “It’s Joe Scarborough that has to answer these questions,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday while repeatedly referring to the clip, which was first pushed by pro-Trump outlets like NewsBusters and The Daily Caller shortly after the president began his smear campaign.
Trump, meanwhile, apparently believes the Klausutis family supports his conspiratorial tweets.
Asked if he was aware that Klausutis’ husband wanted his tweets deleted and for him to stop, the president replied, “I’m sure ultimately they want to get to the bottom of it and it’s a very serious situation.”