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Twitter should no longer give a pass to Trump’s most dishonest tweets

If the president were only hurting himself, we might cheer him on, like a cruel audience at a Jerry Springer show. But he hurts innocent people as well.

In this photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone with President Donald Trump’s Twitter page shown in the background .Trump threatened Wednesday to shutter social media platforms after Twitter for the first time acted against his false tweets.
Olivier Douliert/AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s recent vile and false tweets about MSNBC host Joe Scarborough and mail-in voting illustrate, once again, how far he will push the boundaries of civil behavior until he is stopped.

Decent Americans just can’t, finally, let this slide.

In recent tweets, Trump has all but accused Scarborough, a former congressman, of murdering a worker in his Florida district office 19 years ago. He also has insisted, as he has in the past, that mail-in ballots will result in wholesale fraud in the Nov. 3 election.

There is no truth at all — zero — to either allegation.

Scandalously, most prominent Republicans haven’t uttered a word in protest. The president of the United States labels an innocent man as a likely murderer and other Republicans have got nothing to say.

Among the rare and commendable exceptions have been Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

“Stop the paranoia,” Kinzinger said. “It will destroy us.”

Twitter must draw a line

If Trump’s fellow Republicans won’t call him out, it’s way past time that Twitter did. For too long, Twitter — a privately owned company that can set its own rules — has allowed Trump to flout its standards of online honesty and decency, perhaps because it has been bullied itself by the president.

Trump regularly whines that Twitter is trying to silence conservative voices, which it is not, and just this week he again threatened to take action to shut the company down.

The right move by Twitter, as we see it, would not be to ban Trump. He is the president and there’s an election coming — and there’s a value in the public being able to see hourly, in real time, how his disturbed mind works.

But Twitter should refuse to post his most evidence-free rants and cheapest character assassinations.

When Trump tweeted that mail-in voting results in widespread cheating, Twitter this week was right to tack on links to trusted sites where readers could get the honest facts.

But when Trump tweeted out his wild and crazy conspiracy theory that Scarborough is a murderer, Twitter should have struck those tweets completely.

Twitter regularly blocks or bans users who are far less abusive than Trump.

Trump hurting himself

The most pathetic aspect of all this is that Trump increasingly is doing himself no favors. Just as his daily rants at COVID-19 press briefings drove his poll numbers down, we suspect that all this compulsive tweeting — crazier than ever — is doing nothing for his re-election prospects.

If, in fact, Trump were only hurting himself, we might cheer him on, like a cruel audience at a Jerry Springer show.

But he constantly hurts others as well. The widower of the woman who collapsed and died of a heart condition in Scarborough’s office — while the congressman was 800 miles away — has implored the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, to take down Trump’s outrageous tweets.

“I’m asking you to intervene in this instance because 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,” Timothy J. 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.”

In response, Nick Pacilio, a Twitter spokesman, told the New York Times, “We are 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.”

Those changes can’t happen quickly enough.

And Nov. 3 can’t come soon enough.

In 2017, MSNBC television anchor Joe Scarborough takes questions from an audience at forum at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass. The husband of a woman who died accidentally in an office of then-GOP Rep. Joe Scarborough two decades ago is demanding that Twitter remove President Donald Trump’s tweets suggesting Scarborough murdered her.
Steven Senne/AP

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