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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The husband of Lori Klausutis, an aide to Joe Scarborough when he was a member of Congress who died in 2001, asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to take down President Trump's tweets baselessly accusing the MSNBC host of murdering her, according to a letter obtained by the New York Times' Kara Swisher.

The state of play: Timothy Klausutis asked Dorsey to delete the tweets because Trump "has taken something that does not belong him — the memory of my dead wife and perverted it for perceived political gain."

  • "Please delete those tweets," Klausutis wrote. "My wife deserves better."
  • Lori Klausutis died suddenly after hitting her head on a desk after losing consciousness from an abnormal heart rhythm. There were no signs of foul play, and her death was ruled an accident.
  • Trump continued to baselessly accuse Scarborough on Twitter Tuesday morning, stating that the conspiracy theory "was not a Donald Trump original thought."

The backdrop: Trump accused Scarborough without evidence of murdering Lori Klausutis in multiple tweets last week. He previously did the same in 2017.

  • The president called on his followers to "keep digging" and to "use forensic geniuses" to find out more about the death, which occurred at Scarborough’s congressional office in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
  • Scarborough was in Washington at the time of her death.
  • The MSNBC host and his wife, Mika Brzezinski, have both pushed back on Trump's claims on air in recent days. Brzezinski called the president a "cruel, sick, disgusting person" for his tweets.

What they're saying: "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," Timothy Klausutis wrote.

  • "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."
  • "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."

Between the lines: Twitter has long struggled with how to confront misinformation originating from world leaders' accounts and has decided to leave their accounts untouched because "blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial tweets, would hide important information people should be able to see and debate."

  • Sources told Swisher that after initial hesitance in dealing with Trump’s tweets about Lori Klausutis, the company has accelerated work on how to label certain tweets as false and provide links to high-quality information and reporting that refute the misinformation.
  • Twitter demurred on removing Trump's tweets in a statement on Tuesday, saying that it was "deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family."
  • "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," the company added.

Read the full letter.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Aug 24, 2020 - Technology

Twitter and Facebook’s contrasting approaches to flagging Trump

Twitter on Sunday flagged election-related misinformation from President Trump as violating platform rules, while Facebook took a softer approach.

Why it matters: It's the latest example of the stark contrast in how the two sites handle controversial posts from the president. The pressure on both companies is likely only to intensify as the presidential election draws closer.

Aug 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy
What Matters 2020

Trump pushes fringe beliefs mainstream

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Using his social media megaphone, President Trump has pushed once-fringe beliefs into the consciousness of everyday Americans.

The big picture: The coronavirus "infodemic" that has flooded the internet with misinformation and conspiracy theories has worn down people's already faltering trust in institutions, making it easier for fringe ideas spread by the president to go viral ahead of the election.

Dems race to address, preempt stimulus fraud claims

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Biden officials are working to root out the systematic fraud in unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program claims that plagued the Trump administration’s efforts to boost the economy with coronavirus relief money, Gene Sperling told House committee chairmen privately this week.

Why it matters: President Biden just signed another $1.9 trillion of aid into law, with Sperling tapped to oversee its implementation. And the administration is asking Congress to approve another $2.2 trillion for the first phase of an infrastructure package.

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