The White House press secretary has defended Donald Trump's false accusation that an MSNBC host murdered a member of his staff.
Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that the president's tweets in support of a decades-old conspiracy about the congressman-turned-news anchor Joe Scarborough were not "an original Trump thought".
Trump had tweeted multiple times about the conspiracy. On 12 May he wrote:
He recently added:
There is no credible evidence to support these accusations.
Joe Scarborough and his wife and Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski are frequent targets of Trump's smears because of their criticisms of his presidency on their show.
The conspiracy Trump is referring to concerns the 2001 death of Lori Klausutis, who was employed by Scarborough when he was the Republican congressman for Florida.
The 28 year-old Klausutis died after she collapsed and struck her head. An autopsy revealed that she had experienced an abnormal heart rhythm because of a blood clot caused by an undiagnosed heart condition.
Joe Scarborough was not present at the time of the accident.
Conspiracy theorists speculated at the time that Klausutis's death was not an accident and that Scarborough was somehow involved.
Trump has continued to promote this conspiracy in spite of a personal appeal by Klausutis's widower to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to delete the tweets. In an emotional letter, Timothy Klausutis wrote:
Conspiracy theorists, including most recently the President of the United States, continue to spread their bile and misinformation on your platform disparaging the memory of my wife and our marriage. My request is simple: Please delete these tweets.
Twitter said that they were "deeply sorry" about the pain caused to Klausutis, but refused to delete the tweets.
The White House have now defended Trump whilst continuing to criticise Joe Scarborough.
Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters:
I would note that the president said this morning that this is not an original Trump thought, and it is not. In fact, in 2003 on Don Imus's show, it was Don Imus and Joe Scarborough that joked about killing an intern. Joked and laughed about it, so that was I'm sure pretty hurtful to Lori's family and Joe Scarborough himself brought this up with Don Imus and Joe Scarborough himself can answer for it.
In a years-old interview, then-MSNBC host Don Imus joked to Scarborough that he "had sex with the intern so you had to kill her", to which he replied "what are you gonna do?".
McEnany did not offer any evidence in support of Trump's tweets or an apology to Timothy Klausutis for the pain the president's tweets had caused.
She instead went on to accuse Scarborough and Brzezinski of dragging Trump and his family "through the mud" on their TV show.
Joe Scarborough - if we want to start talking about false accusations we have quite a few we can go through about Mika Brzezinski. I believe it was this morning or yesterday, Mika accused the president of being responsible for a hundred thousand deaths in this country. That's incredibly irresponsible. They've dragged his family through the mud, they've made false accusations that I won't go through, that I would not say from this podium against the president of the United States.
McEnany particularly took issue with the pair's criticisms of Trump's recommendation that people take hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus, which has no proven benefits against Covid-19. Ingestion of chloroquine has been linked to deaths in US.
With Twitter refusing to delete the president's tweets and the White House standing by them, it would appear that Timothy Klausutis will not be properly protected from vicious conspiracies about his wife's tragic death.