White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Tuesday defended President TrumpDonald John TrumpMulvaney: ‘We’ve overreacted a little bit’ to coronavirus Former CBS News president: Most major cable news outlets ‘unrelentingly liberal’ in ‘fear and loathing’ of Trump An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19 MORE for promoting a conspiracy theory about the 2001 death of a woman who worked for then-Rep. Joe ScarboroughCharles (Joe) Joseph ScarboroughTrump hits Biden and Obama in defense of his golfing Trump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams Biden swipes at Trump: ‘Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart’ MORE (R-Fla.).
Speaking at a White House press briefing, McEnany argued that the theory recently amplified by the president was not “an original Trump thought” and that reporters should direct their questions about the matter to Scarborough.
McEnany faced a barrage of questions during Tuesday’s briefing about Trump’s tweets promoting an unsubstantiated theory alleging Scarborough, now a co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” was at fault in the death of Lori Klausutis, an aide who worked in his Florida office when he served in Congress.
McEnany said Trump hadn’t seen a letter from Klausutis’s husband that accused the president of promoting “horrifying lies.” He also asked Twitter to remove the tweets.
“Our hearts are with Lori’s family at this time,” McEnany said before arguing the scrutiny should be on Scarborough. She pointed to a 2003 appearance on Don Imus’s radio program in which Imus can be heard telling a joke about the death of an intern and Scarborough is heard laughing.
“I would note that the president said this morning that this is not an original Trump thought, and it is not,” McEnany said when asked why Trump was making an unfounded accusation. “It was Don Imus and Joe Scarborough that joked about killing an intern, joked and laughed about it.”
“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 it,” McEnany added.
She later accused Scarborough and his co-host Mika BrzezinskiMika Emilie BrzezinskiGOP lawmaker calls on Trump to stop promoting Scarborough conspiracy theory: ‘It will destroy us’ Trump ramps up Twitter push on unfounded Scarborough conspiracy theory Brzezinski says she arranged call with Twitter CEO to discuss banning Trump MORE of spreading “false accusations” about Trump by blaming him for the coronavirus death toll and saying people would die from taking hydroxychloroquine.
McEnany repeatedly tried to deflect questions about the president’s tweets by pointing back to the clip from Imus’s radio program.
In the clip, which was recently resurfaced and reported on by the conservative news site the Daily Caller, Imus can be heard saying, “Don’t be afraid to be funny, because you are funny. I asked you why you weren’t in Congress. You said you had sex with an intern and had to kill her.” Scarborough then laughs and replies, “What are you gonna do?”
Shortly after Tuesday’s press briefing, Brzezinski, who is married to Scarborough, accused McEnany of lying, saying Imus made the “callous joke” during a commercial break and later repeated it on air.
“Joe was embarrassed and said, ‘What are you going to do?’ trying to move on to talk about the show. No lies can cover up the hatefulness of Donald Trump,” Brzezinski tweeted.
Klausutis, who had an undiagnosed heart condition, fell and hit her head at work in 2001 and was found dead the following morning. Scarborough was in Washington at the time and the medical examiner ruled her death an accident.
Trump is among those who have theorized that Scarborough may have been responsible for Klausutis’s death. The president has repeatedly tweeted about the incident in recent weeks, opening himself up to criticism from some within his own party.
“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!” Trump tweeted over the Memorial Day weekend.
Timothy Klausutis, Lori’s widower, recently wrote a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asking the social networking platform to remove the president’s tweets.
“The frequency, intensity, ugliness, and promulgation of these horrifying lies ever increases on the internet,” Klausutis wrote. “These 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.”
Twitter said Tuesday that it was “deeply sorry” about the pain caused by the statements but declined to remove the tweets.