Twitter Apologizes for ‘Pain’ Caused by Trump’s Tweets Falsely Implying Joe Scarborough Committed Murder, but Takes No Action Against President

Social network says it is "working to expand existing product features and policies" to address such cases

President Donald Trump listens to a
Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Twitter issued a public apology to the family of a woman whom Donald Trump has repeatedly insinuated in tweets may have been murdered by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.

But for now, the social network isn’t taking any actions against Trump’s account or the offending tweets on the subject.

The company’s statement comes after Timothy Klausutis, the husband of Lori Klausutis — who worked for Scarborough when he was a U.S. congressman — sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last week requesting that Twitter delete Trump’s tweets alluding to a years-old debunked conspiracy theory, as reported by the New York Times. Lori Klausutis died in 2001.

“We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement to Variety. “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.”

Twitter already has rules in place banning bullying and harassment. The company grants special exemptions to Donald Trump and other political figures for tweets that would be violations for regular users, as long as Twitter deems those posts in the “public interest.” Twitter last year put into place a policy under which tweets by political figures that violate its regular policies would be displayed with a warning notice in front of tweets — but to date, it hasn’t applied such warnings to any of Trump’s posts. (UPDATE: Later in the day, Twitter applied a warning label to two Trump tweets that included several falsehoods about mail-in ballots.)

On Twitter, Trump in recent weeks has promoted the idea that Scarborough killed Lori Klausutis, even though law enforcement officials found no evidence of foul play in connection with her death. On Saturday, Trump explicitly called for the case to be reopened, saying, “A blow to her head? Body found under his desk? Left Congress suddenly? Big topic of discussion in Florida…and, he’s a Nut Job (with bad ratings). Keep digging, use forensic geniuses!”

That came after Trump on May 12 tweeted, “When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida. Did he get away with murder? Some people think so. Why did he leave Congress so quietly and quickly? Isn’t it obvious? What’s happening now? A total nut job!”

On Tuesday, May 26, Trump continued his campaign to falsely smear Scarborough in the case. He claimed in a pair of tweets that when the host of MSNBC “Morning Joe” and his spouse and co-host Mika Brzezinski interviewed him in 2016, “I would always be thinking… about whether or not Joe could have done such a horrible thing? Maybe or maybe not, but I find Joe to be a total Nut Job, and I knew him well, far better than most. So many unanswered & obvious questions, but I won’t bring them up now! Law enforcement eventually will?”

In a letter dated May 21 to Dorsey, provided to the New York Times, Timothy Klausutis asked the CEO to delete Trump’s tweets on the matter, writing, “My wife deserves better.”

Klausutis wrote that Trump “tweeted to his nearly 80 million followers alluding to the repeatedly debunked falsehood that my wife was murdered by her boss, former U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough. The son of the president followed and more directly attacked my wife by tweeting to his followers as the means of spreading this vicious lie.”

Continued Klausutis, “I am now angry as well as frustrated and grieved. I understand that Twitter’s policies about content are designed to maintain the appearance that your hands are clean you provide the platform and the rest is up to users. However, in certain past cases, Twitter has removed content and accounts that are inconsistent with your terms of service.”

Last fall, Twitter tried to clarify which situations would prompt it to disable the accounts of prominent political figures like Trump. Those would entail violations including promoting terrorism; making “clear and direct threats of violence” against an individual; posting someone’s private info; or engaging in activities related to child porn.

Lori Klausutis worked in one of then Rep. Joe Scarborough’s offices in Fort Walton, Fla., as a constituent services coordinator. She died unexpectedly at 28, and an autopsy revealed it was due to an undiagnosed heart condition that caused her to pass out and hit her head, which was the cause of death. Florida police ruled that her death was an accident and there was no foul play involved.

Jordan Moreau contributed to this report.