President Donald Trump's latest attempts to implicate a TV host in a nonexistent murder form a kind of bookend with Trump's assertion four years ago that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without losing voters.
One was a hollow boast about a hypothetical murder. The other is a baseless and debunked smear about a death nearly 20 years ago from an accident caused by a medical condition. Both scenarios exist in Trump's imagination. Neither does anyone any discernible good.
Other fatalities bear more useful discussion. On Tuesday, the U.S. had about 100,000 COVID-19 deaths. The work of minimizing further infections falls to the public and to state and local health authorities. The administration's delayed response at a crucial time has been well documented.
The president keeps claiming great accomplishment on nationwide coronavirus testing. Leading congressional Democrats this week challenged him on the facts.
Trump sent them an upbeat report that suggested testing 300,000 people a day would be enough to contain the outbreak. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared: “This disappointing report confirms that President Trump’s national testing strategy is to deny the truth that there aren’t enough tests and supplies, reject responsibility and dump the burden onto the states."
The president tweets in favor of opening churches and schools. It is as if he has endorsed sunrise. He agitates for speed in a vague way but shields himself from responsibility for specific policies. Obviously institutions and businesses will reopen. Clearly that will generate some economic activity.
Trump declines to wear a mask in front of the cameras but does not dare discourage officials from telling others to do so.
He says he took hydroxychloroquine for weeks, yet his Food and Drug Administration remained on the record for most of that period as saying it shouldn't be used outside a hospital setting or clinical studies. The FDA now advises consulting a physician before using it, but experts still have safety concerns.
Trump's sideshows tend to change nothing.
Blaming Joe Scarborough, a former Florida congressman, for the fate of a deceased employee creates cringing heartbreak for survivors — much like an Alex Jones hoax or a National Enquirer fabrication.
The widower of Lori Klausutis asked Twitter to remove the president’s tweets on the subject. Twitter officials denied the request. By all rational accounts, Klausutis, 28, died in 2001 from a heart condition that caused her to collapse at work and hit her head on a desk.
Her surviving husband, Timothy Klausutis, said in his letter to Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey: "The president of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him — the memory of my dead wife — and perverted it for perceived political gain. My wife deserves better.
"Her passing is 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," Klausutis wrote. "The frequency, intensity, ugliness, and promulgation of these horrifying lies ever increases on the internet."
The president's murder talk echoes his reaction to the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia from natural causes in 2016. Candidate Trump hyped it as a mystery. "They say they found a pillow on his face," he said, "which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow."
Like several others whose reputation the president has sought to poison, Scarborough is a former Trump friend. As usual, Trump leaves it to others outside his domain to "investigate" whether his own allegations are true. And as usual, nothing tangible is expected to come of it.