Maybe this will finally move Twitter to do something about its troll king? In a heartrending letter, a widower wrote to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, pleading with him to remove Trump’s tweets about his late wife Lori Klausutis’s death. In a neurotic salvo aimed at “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough, Trump has been promoting a conspiracy that the then-Congressperson murdered her almost 19 years ago; Timothy Klausutis explains, as had the medical examiner, that his wife’s death at Scarborough’s office was caused by an undiagnosed heart condition. “There has been a constant barrage of falsehoods, half-truths, innuendo and conspiracy theories since the day she died,” Klausutis writes. “I realize that may sound like an exaggeration, unfortunately it is the verifiable truth. Because of this, I have struggled to move forward with my life.”
Trump seems to have first sniffed those baseless conspiracies in 2017, and circled back over the past several weeks to obsess over them along with digs at Scarborough’s ratings. This morning, he tweeted about the “Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough.” On May 24th, he posited that Klausutis and Scarborough were having an affair. On May 23rd, he urged conspiracy theorists to “keep digging!” On May 12th, he asked, “Did he get away with murder?” On April 30th, Don Jr. named Klausutis in a tweet, writing: “What show is Joe going to go on to discuss Lori Klausutis?”
This is no “Cold Case.” In addition to the medical examiner’s findings, police reported that they found no evidence of foul play.
Twitter has consistently ducked calls to treat the president like his fellow hateful citizens. In 2018, his tweets flaunting nuclear weapons at North Korea got a pass for newsworthiness. In 2019, Twitter stated, after Kamala Harris’s call to suspend his account, that world leaders’ tweets will remain if they “clear public interest value.” Twitter also deferred to its “public interest” stance in 2019, with Trump’s racist go-back-to-your-country tweet aimed at Congresswomen of color. In April, a Twitter spokesperson told the Washington Examiner that his “LIBERATE” tweets, which fueled anti-social distancing protestors, were “vague and unclear”—enough wiggle room around its stated intent to “prioritize removing content when it has a clear call to action that could directly pose a risk to people’s health or well-being.” Even when asked whether Twitter would ban Trump if he incited murder, Dorsey said Twitter would “talk about it.”
When Gizmodo asked Twitter whether it planned to do anything about the hurtful tweets in question, a Twitter spokesperson sent a statement that equates to a social networking version of thoughts of prayers.
We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family. 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.
So Twitter might implement policy changes to address “things like this,” though Twitter has proven time and again that the president gets a pass for things like the hateful and violent content he posts. Twitter can make a choice and at the moment, the choice it’s decided to go with is that the tweets stand. Trump keeps carte blanche to fire away. Gizmodo asked Twitter whether the unspecified expanded policy changes might apply to Trump’s tweets retroactively. Twitter has not responded.
Still, a reference to “changes” is an unusual level of commitment from this company, possibly because it’s hard to turn a blind eye to Klausutis’s letter which shows that Trump’s tweets have caused demonstrable grief and harm. “I’m asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him—the memory of my dead wife and perverted it for perceived political gain,” he writes. “I would also ask that you consider Lori’s niece and two nephews who will eventually come across this filth in the future. They have never met their Aunt and it pains me to think they would ever have to ‘learn’ about her this way.”
The New York Times has uploaded a full copy of the letter here.