Romney, Cheney call out Trump for repeating baseless conspiracy theory about MSNBC host

"He's the commander in chief of this nation, and it's causing great pain to the family of the young woman who died," said Rep. Liz Cheney.
Image: Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, leaves after a vote at the Capitol on Dec. 2, 2019.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, leaves after a vote at the Capitol on Dec. 2, 2019.Alex Wong / Getty Images file

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By Allan Smith

Two prominent Republicans said Wednesday that President Donald Trump should stop tweeting about a baseless conspiracy theory that claims that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was involved in the death of an intern in his congressional office decades ago.

The deceased woman's family this week pleaded with Twitter to take down Trump's tweets, saying the posts were causing them great pain.

"I know Joe Scarborough," Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a frequent critic of the president, said in a tweet. "Joe is a friend of mine. I don't know T.J. Klausutis. Joe can weather vile, baseless accusations but T.J.? His heart is breaking. Enough already."

The woman, Lori Klausutis, died in 2001 while working in the congressional office of Scarborough, who was then a Republican House member from Florida. Medical authorities said her death stemmed from a heart condition that caused her to collapse and hit her head on her desk, but Trump has repeatedly pushed the widely debunked claim that Scarborough was somehow involved in foul play. Klausutis' husband, Timothy Klausutis, sent a recent letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asking for the company to remove Trump's posts on the subject.

"My request is simple: Please delete these tweets," Klausutis wrote, adding: "The President's tweet that suggests that Lori was murdered without evidence and contrary to the official autopsy is a violation of Twitter's community rules and terms of service. An ordinary user like me would be banished from the platform for such a tweet but I am only asking that these tweets be removed."

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Twitter said it would not remove the tweets.

After a news conference with House Republican leaders Wednesday, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., also said Trump needs to stop.

"I do think the president should stop tweeting about Joe Scarborough," she said, adding: "We're in the middle of a pandemic. He's the commander in chief of this nation, and it's causing great pain to the family of the young woman who died, so I would urge him to stop it."

Earlier Wednesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he was not familiar enough with the subject to comment.

The family's pleas have not caused Trump to change course. Asked about the letter during a news conference Tuesday, Trump said he is "sure that, ultimately, they want to get to the bottom of it, and it's a very serious situation."

On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted that Scarborough, who hosts MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and has frequently criticized the president, "is rattled." Trump again pushed for "opening a Cold Case."