White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Tuesday trotted out the administration’s defense of President Donald Trump’s repeated and baseless accusations that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough may have murdered a former staffer.
The president is justified in dragging out a dead woman and her widower in order to attack the Morning Joe host, McEnany claimed, because Scarborough once seemed to joke about the death himself during a 2003 media appearance.
For weeks now, the president has revived conspiracy theories about the death of Lori Klausutis, an aide who died in Scarborough’s Florida congressional office in 2001. Though the death was ruled accidental due to abnormal heart rhythm and Scarborough was in D.C. at the time, the president has called for the “cold case” to be reopened while suggesting “Psycho Joe” murdered her.
The deceased aide’s widower Timothy Klausutis, meanwhile, sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey calling for him to take down the president’s tweets, noting they violated the social-media platform’s terms of service and that Trump has “perverted” the memory of his wife for political gain. Despite Mr. Klausutis’ pleas, Twitter has said they will not take any enforcement action.
During Tuesday’s White House press briefing, McEnany was confronted multiple times about the president’s repeated smears of Scarborough. ABC News reporter Jon Karl was the first to press McEnany on the subject, pointing out that it “was pretty nuts” that the president is peddling conspiracy theories about a murder while the family is pleading with him to stop.
“I would note the president said this morning this is not an ‘original Trump thought,’” she replied, referencing yet another presidential tweet on the matter. “In fact, 2003 on Don Imus’ show, it was Don Imus and Joe Scarborough that joked about killing an intern. Joked and laughed about it. That was, I’m sure, pretty hurtful to Lori’s family and Joe Scarborough brought this up with Don Imus and Joe Scarborough himself can answer it.”
After McEnany went on to complain about the “false accusations” Scarborough and fellow co-host and wife Mika Brzezinski have made about Trump, an incredulous Karl asked her again why Trump was spreading a “false conspiracy theory” that suggests Scarborough’s responsible for murder.
“It’s Joe Scarborough that has to answer these questions,” the White House spokesperson responded after once again referencing the Imus segment.
The segment McEnany was pointing to was first unearthed by right-wing media earlier this month after the president began pushing his murder accusations. At the time, Imus was interviewing the then-new MSNBC host about his show and eventually made the following offhand remark: “Don’t be afraid to be funny, because you are funny. You know, I ask you why you won Congress, you said you’d had sex with the intern and then you had to kill her, that’s pretty risky to say.”
Scarborough, for his part, seemingly tried to wave off the joke and move on, replying: “What are you gonna do?”
Immediately following McEnany’s briefing, Brzezinski took to Twitter to make that same point, explaining that Imus had “made the callous joke” to Scarborough both on-air and during a break. The MSNBC host “was embarrassed,” she said, and attempted to brush it off.
Elsewhere in the presser, McEnany was confronted about Trump being seemingly unwilling to provide the widower peace, only for the press secretary to once again reference the Imus segment as justification for the president’s tweets while claiming “our hearts are with Lori.”
“The widower is talking specifically about the president,” PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor exclaimed. “Are you not going to answer that?”
McEnany ignored Alcindor, instead turning to pro-Trump outlet One America News to ask a question about the “Obamagate” scandal.
Later in the afternoon, during a White House press event to announce caps on insulin costs, Trump was asked why he continues to suggest that Scarborough is a murderer, prompting the president to claim “a lot of people suggest that.”
“Hopefully someday people will find out,” Trump continued. “It’s certainly a very suspicious situation. Sad, very sad and very suspicious.”
Another reporter brought up the letter from Timothy Klausutis, noting that the widower was begging Twitter to take down the president’s tweets and wondering if Trump had seen what he had written.
“Yeah, I have. I’m sure ultimately they want to get to the bottom of it and it’s a very serious situation,” Trump reacted before referencing the Imus radio segment.
“They were having a lot of fun at her expense I thought it was totally inappropriate,” he concluded. “It’s a very suspicious thing and I hope somebody gets to the bottom of it. It will be a very good thing. As you know, there is no statute of limitations. It would be a very good thing.”