WSJ Chastises Trump’s Slander

The President's unhinged Twitter rants have drawn a rebuke from an unlikely source.

President Trump so routinely used his Twitter account to spread outrageous lies and innuendo that it has, sadly, became almost normalized. The Wall Street Journal editorial board, however, has its limits.

The following was published online last evening (and presumably in this morning’s print edition) under the headline “A Presidential Smear.” And, unusually, not placed behind a paywall.

Donald Trump sometimes traffics in conspiracy theories—recall his innuendo in 2016 about Ted Cruz’s father and the JFK assassination—but his latest accusation against MSNBC host Joe Scarborough is ugly even for him. Mr. Trump has been tweeting the suggestion that Mr. Scarborough might have had something to do with the death in 2001 of a young woman who worked in his Florida office when Mr. Scarborough was a GOP Congressman.

“A lot of interest in this story about Psycho Joe Scarborough. So a young marathon runner just happened to faint in his office, hit her head on his desk, & die? I would think there is a lot more to this story than that? An affair? What about the so-called investigator? Read story!” Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday while retweeting a dubious account of the case.

He kept it going Tuesday with new tweets: “The opening of a Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough was not a Donald Trump original thought, this has been going on for years, long before I joined the chorus. . . . So many unanswered & obvious questions, but I won’t bring them up now! Law enforcement eventually will?” Nasty stuff, and from the Oval Office to more than 80 million Twitter followers.

There’s no evidence of foul play, or an affair with the woman, and the local coroner ruled that the woman fainted from an undiagnosed heart condition and died of head trauma. Some on the web are positing a conspiracy because the coroner had left a previous job under a cloud, but the parents and husband of the young woman accepted the coroner’s findings and want the case to stay closed.

Mr. Trump always hits back at critics, and Mr. Scarborough has called the President mentally ill, among other things. But suggesting that the talk-show host is implicated in the woman’s death isn’t political hardball. It’s a smear. Mr. Trump rightly denounces the lies spread about him in the Steele dossier, yet here he is trafficking in the same sort of trash.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, had it right when he tweeted on the weekend: “Completely unfounded conspiracy. Just stop. Stop spreading it, stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us.”

These tweets are absolutely in violation of Twitter’s terms of service and, were it anyone else, the tweets would have been deleted and the account temporarily suspended, if not banned. But, of course, the President of the United States is not anyone else and the company is, quite rightly, leery of denying the most powerful man in the world its platform.

The WSJ editors are, also rightly, resigned that their rebuke will go unheeded by the President.

We don’t write this with any expectation that Mr. Trump will stop. Perhaps he even thinks this helps him politically, though we can’t imagine how. But Mr. Trump is debasing his office, and he’s hurting the country in doing so.

One hopes that some lifelong Republicans who are regular readers of the paper will finally be persuaded that Trump is unfit for the office he holds. But, frankly, if they haven’t come around to that view by now, it’s hard to imagine some outrageous tweets about a former Republican Congressman turned morning talk host will do the trick.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Pete S says:

    It is refreshing to see at least a couple of Republicans criticising Trump for the lying and cruelty of this smear. It would be better still if they would recognize and acknowledge that MOST of what he says has the same level of truth and compassion, but since those targets are usually politicians or poor people they are just allowed to stand unchallenged.

    10
  2. Mike says:

    Trump is such an embarrassing POS. If he would just not communicate, in any way, the better for everyone. Just no class. Always a good teaching point, though , for my kids…we don’t say or act like that, some do , polite people do not…. Happy Wednesday

    6
  3. Kit says:

    One hopes that some lifelong Republicans who are regular readers of the paper will finally be persuaded that Trump is unfit for the office he holds. But, frankly, if they haven’t come around to that view by now, it’s hard to imagine some outrageous tweets about a former Republican Congressman turned morning talk host will do the trick.

    We have witnessed so many moments when decent people should have said no mas. Each time, the actual numbers were so low as to be heart breaking. But today when someone finally turns from the right-wing path, I find it far more difficult to understand them than those who soldier on. You carried all this water so far and so long (it started getting heavy a good twenty years ago), that this small pebble in your shoe leads you to stop?

    14
  4. Crusty Dem says:

    Twitter needs to step up and suspend his account. You can’t have standards you won’t enforce. “He’s the President” is an excuse that may make sense with regards to political speech, but this is just abetting slander and misinformation.

    11
  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    You do wish that Dorsey would cut him off, but it is understandable why he won’t. The silence from rethugs is deafening. One lonely congress critter from Illinois has the decency to speak up.

    3
  6. CSK says:

    When asked if he’d seen Timothy Klausutis’s letter to Jack Dorsey asking Twitter to delete the awful Tweets, Trump said he had seen it and he was sure the family wanted to get to the bottom of the death/murder of Lori.

    Has a more disgusting human being than Trump ever bestridden the planet?

    25
  7. CSK says:

    Someone had posted the NY Post and National Review editorials excoriating Trump for his Scarborough Tweets over at Lucianne.com, and after Cult45 got finished defending Trump, both pieces were removed. I mention this only as further evidence–not that any’s needed–of Cult45’s ability to rationalize anything the man says or does.

    14
  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    Wow, that WSJ editorial board certainly has proven its independence. I guess it’s one thing to lie twenty-thousand times, but twenty thousand and one? No, no, people of good will must rise up and in a soft, mewling voice, cry, ‘please stop, if you don’t mind, sir, not that you’ll even… okay, never mind.’

    17
  9. mattbernius says:

    Meh.

    Call me when the editorial boards of the WSJ and NR all state that they cannot vote for Trump and directly advocate for their readership to vote against him. Otherwise they both will continue to play the embarrassed moral scolds who ultimately will fall in line because partisanship trumps (pun unintentional and regretted) moral standards (as we have see from the NR’s finger-wagging embrace of Trump post election).

    28
  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    But, of course, the President of the United States is not anyone else and the company is, quite rightly, leery of denying the most powerful man in the world its platform.

    Well, I suppose one might be leery if one is devoid of anything like a moral soul.

    5
  11. CSK says:

    Trump’s most recent Tweet–34 minutes ago–is about how the “facts” in the “Psycho Joe” case are coming to light on the Internet. He won’t let go of this. He’s crazed in addition to being loathsome.

    9
  12. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    Doesn’t everyone know when you tell a small child not to do something, they will keep on doing it to get a reaction?

    7
  13. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    There’s no better illustration than this of the reality that Trump really is an overgrown toddler, is there? I recall when the news about the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape broke, Melania’s reaction was to say, “I have two little boys at home.” She may have been trying to tell us something. No wonder they live separately in the White House; spending your time deflecting the tantrums of an ugly, overgrown toddler would be tiresome. Probably her pre-nup states that she only has to show up for ceremonial occasions looking good.

    8
  14. CSK says:

    This is quite good: “The Malignant Cruelty of Donald Trump,” by Peter Wehner, in http://www.theatlantic.com.

    3
  15. Jay L Gischer says:

    Since I am a person who’s attitude has changed on a few important questions, I have a model for how people change their political attitudes. Things like this smear storm from Trump are like sandpaper, and they wear on you. You can rub sandpaper on wood for quite a while before it really changes its shape, or breaks. The wear is there, though.

    People don’t change quickly or easily. That’s probably on balance a good thing. But they do change, over time.

    4
  16. CSK says:

    Romney Tweeted:
    “I know Joe Scarborough. Joe is a friend of mine. I don’t know T. J. Klausutis. Joe can weather vile, baseless accusations but T.J.? His hearty is breaking. Enough already.”

    Of course this will only encourage Trump, as has been pointed out above.

    11
  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    I’ve seen no evidence that Cult45 responds to facts at all. Can you point to polling that suggests that anything has had any effect on the 42-44% of the country in thrall to this psychopath?

    4
  18. CSK says:

    Slightly O.T., but in the photo above this post, the line of demarcation between where Trump’s bronzer/oranger begins and ends is quite obvious, isn’t it?

    4
  19. CSK says:

    The Washington Examiner, which I gather is a conservative paper, has just editorialized against Trump, calling his Tweets about Scarborough and Lori Klausutis “vile.”
    Cult45 will, of course, erupt in rage and then denial.

    Oh, by the way, Cult45 has an explanation for the pussy tape: It was faked.

    5
  20. An Interested Party says:

    Doesn’t everyone know when you tell a small child not to do something, they will keep on doing it to get a reaction?

    The question is, will enough people vote to put this loathsome toddler in a permanent timeout in November…

    2
  21. CSK says:

    @An Interested Party:
    If Trump doesn’t STFU about Scarborough, he may well lose bigly in November. He may even discourage a few–not many, but a few–members of Cult45. Never has Trump made his total derangement so blindingly obvious. This. Man. Is. Not. Sane.

    8
  22. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK:

    This. Man. Is. Not. Sane.

    That. Like the entire MSM has all along, WSJ buried the lede. The story isn’t that Trump accused Scarborough of murder, or that he told people to drink bleach, or that he went golfing as the death count hit 100,000. The story is that the man’s not right. And he’s President* of the United States.

    One aspect of conservative psychology is the belief that it makes you one of the best people, a member of the elect, a maker, the establishment. Trump’s crudity makes that very difficult and apparently the WSJ has finally found it upsetting. But Trump can cage children, sell out to the Russians, and drive up COVID deaths, but as long as Rs refuse to raise taxes and Trump has an R after his name, the WSJ will not go beyond a “tut tut” every few years.

    10
  23. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:
    \Trump has never been right. He bragged about punching a teacher when he was six or seven. His brother Robert said that Donald would glue his toy bricks together. When Trump dumped his first wife, his mother said, “My God, what did I give birth to?” He routinely delights in cruelty; he has a real taste for inflicting pain on others, especially those who can’t fight back.

    Even as a child, he was a sadist and a bully. In different circumstances, he might have grown up to be a serial killer, since he has all the hallmarks of one.

    4
  24. dazedandconfused says:

    It’s a fair prediction that when the day comes that Trump no longer has power he will be shunned.

    Trump’s bullying methods are hard but brittle. When you force people to act in ways they do not like they may hate you but more they loath themselves for knuckling under. That self-loathing becomes toxic. If the moment arrives wherein they no longer have to put up with you…watch out.

    5
  25. Blue Galangal says:

    @CSK:

    In different circumstances, he might have grown up to be a serial killer, since he has all the hallmarks of one.

    Who’s to say he’s not? He’s got some really odd fixations on tying women up with tape and raping them. Then I hear from Twitter that he strangled his secretary Carolyn Gombell?*

    *Yes, I know this is made up.

    3
  26. Mikey says:

    Shot:

    “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit:

    There must be in-groups whom the law protectes but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.” — Frank Wilhoit

    Chaser:

    Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has voted by mail 11 times in 10 years

    7
  27. Mikey says:

    @Mikey: Arrgh…this was meant for the open forum thread.

  28. CSK says:

    @Blue Galangal:
    I just looked up #JusticeforCarolyn on Twitter. When someone brings that to Trump’s attention, he’s going to have a stroke. Serves him right.

    @Mikey:
    Well, of course she has. Do as I say, not as I do.

    3
  29. Monala says:

    @CSK: Is that a real thing? I ask because before it started trending on Twitter, people were saying, “Hey, what if we accused Trump like he’s accusing Scarborough?”

    1
  30. JohnMcC says:

    @CSK: So I used the search-machine to look up “justice for Carolyn Gombell”. Now, I happen to use Bing. Like the pictures. Don’t know if this will happen for you in the Google-lottery. But…

    The number 1 result was an explanation of the parody in Heavy-dot-com.

    The number 2 result was an expose of the horrible scandal — wait for it — from Russia Television.

    Gosh!

  31. CSK says:

    @JohnMcC:
    Yeah, I got the same thing from Bing, too. Usually I use Google, but this is a new device and the default search engine is Bing.

    @Monala:
    Well, it’s real insofar that it exists. But Carolyn Gombell herself never existed, afaik, nor did the murder happen that Trump’s accused of committing. But the point is that if Trump can accuse Scarborough of an imaginary murder, Trump himself can be accused of an imaginary murder. Turnabout is fair play.

    4
  32. DrDaveT says:

    @CSK:

    Oh, by the way, Cult45 has an explanation for the pussy tape: It was faked.

    Which explains why Trump not only didn’t deny he’d said it, he explained why he’d said it. In public.

    The ongoing denial of things Trump has already admitted makes me even crazier than the usual crazy.

    3
  33. CSK says:

    Yeah, I know. I remember his apology. But recall that a few days later he muttered darkly that the tape might be a fake, and that he had people (unnamed) looking into that probability. Possibly these were the same people he had in Hawaii looking into Obama’s birth certificate and finding all those incredible things we never heard mentioned again.

    Anyway, these dark suspicions Trump voiced gave Cult45 all the excuse they needed to disregard his initial apology. Very short memories and cognitive dissonance are their defining qualities.

  34. Joe says:

    Well, it’s real insofar that it exists. But Carolyn Gombell herself never existed, afaik, nor did the murder happen that Trump’s accused of committing. But the point is that if Trump can accuse Scarborough of an imaginary murder, Trump himself can be accused of an imaginary murder. Turnabout is fair play.

    The difference, CSK, is that the fictional Ms. Gombell has no family to terrorize.

    3
  35. CSK says:

    @Joe:
    I think we’re all aware of that.

    1
  36. Sleeping Dog says:

    In addition to the WSJ, NR, Wash Examiner, NY Post editorializing against Tiny re Scarborough so has Townhall

    1
  37. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    About 85% of the commenters on that article are vigorously defending Trump and trashing the author. I really, really enjoyed the jackass who wrote that someone paid off Lori Klausutis’s widower, presumably to be mean to Donald.

    1
  38. de stijl says:

    You’ve made your bed /
    You better lie in it

    Going Underground by The Jam (Paul Weller)

    I sported bowling shoes before they did.

    You know what is cooler than having The Jam pinch your look? Consciously guarding against confirmation bias.