Some people will argue that Trump’s promotion of this conspiracy theory is just his latest distraction, a shiny object to pull our focus away from the human and economic cost of COVID-19. Maybe. But I’m not at all convinced that this will help Trump politically.
Peter Wehner: The Trump presidency is over
Remember, Trump’s approval rating was often well under 50 percent even when the economy was doing well and America was at relative peace abroad. There’s plenty of evidence, including the 2018 midterm elections, that Trump’s dehumanizing tactics erode his support, especially among white suburban women. And I rather doubt that people will have forgotten Trump’s reckless handling of the pandemic by November; defaming the memory of a woman who died nearly two decades ago and causing renewed grief for her family isn’t likely to help him with most voters, either.
But whatever the political ramifications of this current lie being promulgated by the president, the rest of us need to name it, and to make Trump supporters own it. They are his, and he is theirs.
In his letter to Jack Dorsey, Timothy Klausutis wrote that his wife’s death, in 2001, was “the single most painful thing that I have ever had to deal with in my 52 years and continues to haunt her parents and sister.” He added:
I have mourned my wife every day since her passing. I have tried to honor her memory and our marriage. As her husband, I feel that one of my marital obligations is to protect her memory as I would have protected her in life. There has been a constant barrage of falsehoods, half-truths, innuendo and conspiracy theories since the day she died. I realize that may sound like an exaggeration, unfortunately it is the verifiable truth. Because of this, I have struggled to move forward with my life.
The frequency, intensity, ugliness, and promulgation of these horrifying lies ever increases on the internet. 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.
Near the end of his letter to Dorsey, asking him to delete Trump’s tweets—which Dorsey has declined to do—Klausutis wrote:
I would also ask that you consider Lori’s niece and two nephews who will eventually come across this filth in the future. They have never met their Aunt and it pains me to think they would ever have to “learn” about her this way.
My wife deserves better.
There is a wickedness in our president that long ago corrupted him. It’s corrupted his party. And it’s in the process of corrupting our country, too.
He is a crimson stain on American decency. He needs to go.