Scarborough calls out McConnell over silence on Trump photo-op: Does he only critique black leaders?

"Does Mitch McConnell only critique black presidents? Doesn't critique white presidents?" the MSNBC host asks

Published June 3, 2020 5:48PM (EDT)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (Getty/Tom Brenner)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (Getty/Tom Brenner)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday re-upped one of his favorite lies: that MSNBC's Joe Scarborough allegedly murdered his former congressional staffer.

The attack came soon after the "Morning Joe" host laced into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for refusing to denounce the president's photo-op at a church, which was made possible by dispersing protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets. 

During a Fox News Radio interview, "Fox & Friends" host Brian Kilmeade asked the president why he had devoted chunks of his time to pushing the debunked conspiracy theory, especially as the country reels amid a convergence of a trio of historic crises: racial inequality, a pandemic and a recession.

"I just do it —I hit back," Trump replied. "I always felt Scarborough got away with murder. That's not an uncommon story — so we don't have to spend a lot of time on it — but I always felt that."

Trump has taken to Twitter in recent weeks to demand, without rationale, that Florida authorities reopen an investigation into the 2001 death of Lori Klausutis, who worked as a former staffer at the then-Congressman Scarborough's district office in Fort Walton Beach.

PolitiFact founder Bill Adair — at the time the former Washington bureau chief of the St. Petersburg Times — investigated Klausutis' death decades ago. A medical examiner ruled it resulted when she hit her head on a desk after a fall caused by heart arrhythmia.

Scarborough, a former member of Trump's own party, was hundreds of miles away in Washington at the time. 

"I filed public records requests and did a fair number of interviews. I talked with people who knew the aide, Lori Klausutis, and questioned the police chief and the medical examiner," Adair recently tweeted about his reporting, pointing out that there remains no evidence to support Trump's conspiracy theory.

Hours before Trump exhumed those false allegations, Scarborough tore into McConnell on his eponymous show for giving a pass to Trump for his photo-op following days of protests after George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody.

Scarborough erupted after McConnell told MSNBC reporter Kasie Hunt, "I'm not going to critique other people's performances."

"The silence from all those Republicans when asked to defend Donald Trump was damning for good reason, because what he did was abhorrent," he said.

Scarborough recalled how only last month McConnell said Obama "should've kept his mouth shut" after the erstwhile president dinged Trump's botched response to the coronavirus pandemic. McConnell's dodge was "the most cynical" of all the non-responses, he added.

"There he was just absolutely bashing Barack Obama for making a — just making a pretty mild statement a couple weeks ago," Scarborough said of the majority leader, who once caught flak for wearing a tan suit after the same look on Obama was considered as "an impeachable offense."

"Does Mitch McConnell only critique black presidents? Doesn't critique white presidents?" Scarborough asked. "Is this the McConnell rule that we're going to be using from now on?"

Outrage over racial injustice and police brutality has ignited over the past week the most tumultuous civil unrest to wrack the country since 1968. Trump has actively antagonized the mostly peaceful protesters with threats of military force.

Two weeks prior, Timothy Klausutis — Lori's former husband — sent an anguished letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, begging that he take down Trump's tweets about his late wife.

Twitter refused to delete those tweets from Trump, but last week flagged a baseless conspiracy theory about voter fraud and masked a tweet glorifying violence against protesters in the wake of Floyd's death.

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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