For weeks, President Donald Trump has tweeted unfounded claims suggesting that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was somehow involved in the death of a member of his staff, Lori Klausutis, in 2001. Despite an emotional plea from Klausutis' widower, Twitter says it will not remove the baseless tweets.
In a letter to Twitter's CEO Jack Dorsey, published by The New York Times, Timothy Klausutis asked the company to "please delete the tweets" sent by the president about his wife's death. Klausutis said the conspiracy theory that Scarborough secretly murdered Lori has been "repeatedly debunked," and that "these horrifying lies" have left him "frustrated and grieved."
Lori, who suffered from an undiagnosed heart condition, died after collapsing at work and hitting her head on her desk. At the time, Scarborough was a Republican member of Congress from Florida. The death was ruled an accident, and Klausutis says the president's claims contradict the official autopsy.
"Her passing is the single most painful thing that I have ever had to deal with in my 52 years and continues to haunt her parents and sister," he wrote. "As her husband, I feel that one of my marital obligations is to protect her memory as I would have protected her in life."
Klausutis said he has struggled to properly mourn his wife's death and move forward because of ongoing conspiracies spreading about her online.
He directed his plea to Twitter because he says the president's tweets directly violate Twitter's community rules and terms of service, and said any regular user would be "banished by the platform" for making similar false claims.
In a series of tweets this month, Trump has repeatedly pushed the idea that Scarborough — now an MSNBC host and frequent public critic of the president — "got away with murder." He called on "Concast" to "open up a long overdue Florida Cold Case against psycho Joe Scarborough" and even suggested an affair led to her death. The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., also promoted the conspiracy on Twitter.
"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," Klausutis wrote in the letter to Twitter.
Scarborough's co-host and wife Mika Brzezinksi also pressed Twitter, both on-air and on Twitter, to delete the tweets and the president's account altogether.
But Twitter is not removing the tweets.
"We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family," a spokesperson said in a statement to CBS News on Tuesday. "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."
Last year, Twitter announced it would soon start labeling tweets from politicians and other government officials that violated its terms but were considered of interest to the public. It's unclear whether Trump's tweets will be subjected to the policy.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnanyon the series of tweets.