Editorial: President's attacks on woman's legacy represent worst of social media abuse

  • President Donald Trump talks to reporters Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

    President Donald Trump talks to reporters Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Associated Press

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted5/27/2020 7:11 PM

You can't libel a dead person, the saying goes.

But you can cause that person's family and friends incalculable pain by what you say.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Lori Klausutis' survivors know that because President Donald Trump disregarded her legacy, their suffering and the truth by spreading a lie about her.

Trump dredged up Klausutis' accidental death, which occurred 19 years ago, as a way to trash cable TV news host and former Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough. Klausutis, 28, worked in one of Scarborough's congressional offices, where she died.

Scarborough, in Trump's outrageous Twitter posts, is made out as a potential killer. Klausutis, without a bit of evidence, is cast as his possible paramour.

Trump's attack is a breach of human decency. It is bad enough that social media is replete with falsehoods, unsupportable conspiracy theories, baseless accusations and purposeful distortions from everyday citizens. Can we not expect more responsible behavior from our president?

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Some Republicans joined in calling out Trump's claim for what it is.

"Completely unfounded conspiracy," U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Channahon said Sunday on Twitter. "Just stop. Stop spreading it, stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us."

"Enough already," U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney said Wednesday on Twitter.

Earlier this month, Trump began by saying on Twitter that MSNBC owner Comcast "should open up a long overdue Florida Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough."

A few days later: "Did he get away with murder?"

On Saturday, "A blow to her head? Body found under his desk?"

On Sunday, "An affair?"

Here are the facts.

• There's no cold case. Police ruled Klausutis died from an accident, not foul play. Scarborough was in Washington, D.C., at the time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• No one hit her. An autopsy report, reproduced online by The Washington Post, found Klausutis had a heart condition, passed out, hit her head on a desk, fractured her skull and died. "There is no doubt" that a fall, rather than a blow, caused the injury, the report states.

• There's no hint of an affair, and our hearts go out to Klausutis' husband Timothy. "I have mourned my wife every day since her passing," he wrote to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a letter published in The New York Times. "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." Twitter refused his request to delete Trump's posts.

Lori Klausutis wasn't a public figure. She doesn't deserve to have a perpetual asterisk after her name.

Trump, and those who share such lies, need to consider what they are doing to the memories of those they abuse and defame. They need to stop.

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