I watch a lot of politics on television…
That includes nearly all of the many Republican Presidential Debates. So it’s not like I’m completely clued out (though some might disagree). For example, I can practically recite every one of Michele Bachmann‘s many gaffes. I even just spelled her oddly-lettered name correctly without having to look it up. And I spotted her brother, KCTV weather wonk Gary Amble, looking somber, standing next to her on stage as she announced she was quiting the race.
In recent months I’ve become a fan of MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" show. It’s headed by a cocky, former Florida congressman that I previously knew little to nothing about by the name of Joe Scarborough.
What makes the show work is the chemistry between the conservative Scarborough, his brainy, liberal, MILF co-host Mika Brzezinski, the dry-witted, 30-something Willie Geist and an impressive array of political, business and entertainment movers-and-shakers.
However I must admit, I liked the show more prior to Scarborough lapsing into a long spell of dominating certain aspects of the political discourse and repeatedly reminding everybody of his vast experience in congress.
Which got me to wondering things like, "How long was he in?" and "Why is he merely a television host now if he was so darn effective as a politician?"
It didn’t take long to come up with some interesting possible answers.
Answers to questions many of you might have wondered about but never looked into. So here goes.
For starters Scarborough was only in congress for seven years, from January 1995 until September 2001. That’s three and a-half terms for those of you keeping score at home.
Raising the question of why would a rising Republican star quit early into his 4th elected term at age 38?
After all, Scarborough loves nothing more than dissecting and discussing politics, espousing conservative views and reminding viewers of his experience and political successes in elected office.
So why leave?
Here’s where things get a little goosy. A closer look reveals Scarborough stepped down five months into his term after giving notice seven months earlier, barely having battling for re-election. The obvious question being, why? His kids, Scarborough said.
"The realization has come home to me that they’re at a critical stage of their lives and I would rather be judged at the end of my life as a father than as a congressman," Scarborough said at the time. Florida even had to pony up for a special election to replace Scarborough.
So why the sudden epiphany?
Here’s where it starts to get a little dicey.
Scarborough’s decision to quit congress came on the heels of his 1999 divorce and the hiring of 28 year-old aide Lori Klausutis, who was found dead in his office in July 2001. Although police said they didn’t find evidence of foul play, critics point to unanswered questions about her death.
However with Scarborough swiftly stepping out of the public spotlight and the media frenzy surrounding 9/11, little attention was paid to Klausutis’ death and the overlap between her hiring and his divorce.
Which brings us to the Web site, "All Hat No Cattle," which poses the question, "Which Republican U.S. Congressman had a dead aide found in his office while the media was hounding Democrat U.S. Congressman Gary Condit about his missing ex-intern, Chandra Levy?"
The Condit / Levy witch hunt also got lost in the 9/11 shuffle, however, the publicity cost Condit his re-election in 2002, even though Levy’s murderer was later found and convicted.
But back to "Morning Joe" and Klausutis.
"Needless to say, this story never made national TV," a September 15, 2001 editorial on All Hat reads. "The big boys of broadcast had their sights set solely on Condit and had no time to cover the unusual death of a healthy, politically active 28-year-old female aide in a U.S. Congressman’s district office."
"After all was said and done, a few things became quite clear," All Hat continues. "The authorities, mainly the police who investigated the scene, gave the appearance of a cover-up by immediately stating that there were no signs of foul play. It subsequently was revealed that the dead woman had a wound to her forehead, which seemed to fly in the face of the initial statements by investigators. If this wasn’t an example of poor police work, it most certainly was a case of bumbled media and public relations.
"How could police rule out foul play until they knew the cause of the wound, before an autopsy was conducted and toxicology tests performed?
"The local newspaper, the Northwest Florida Daily News, tried to get information from local authorities and claimed they were sandbagged at every turn . No one suggested that the Congressman had anything to do with the death, but the manner in which authorities handled the press shows one thing. They gave the benefit of the doubt to the popular Republican Congressman, and it is doubtful they would have done the same for any ordinary Joe."
"In October 2006, Joe Scarborough sent a cease and desist letter to have all references to himself and his dead aide, Lori Klausutis, removed from this website," All Hat writes, providing a copy of Scarborough’s lawyer’s letter. "Nothing was removed from this site."
So less than a year from Scarborough landing his "Morning Joe" gig he attempted to silence practically the only media outlet aiming a critical eye at Klausutis’ death.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the matter under the heading, "Resignation and controversy."
"Although the police concluded that there was no evidence of foul play, critics have said that there are unanswered questions about her death. According to Scarborough, soon after her death, allegations ‘spread all over the Internet’ that he had been involved. In 2003, he joked about the incident with Don Imus on Imus’s radio program In 2004, it was the subject of a public spat between Scarborough and filmmaker Michael Moore."
Here’s what’s intriguing to me about the whole Klausutis affair.
Given insinuations that Scarborough may have had a personal involvement with his deceased aide, his hasty and oddly explained exit from congress, combined with the fact that little to no evidence exists that Klausutis relatives pressed much, if at all, for further answers as to what she was doing alone at the office when she "fell" and killed herself by hitting her head on a desk is perplexing at the very least.
This much is known, that Klausutis started working for Scarborough in 1999, the year he divorced his first wife Melanie Hinton. And that three months after Klausutis death he married current wife Susan.
Oh and one more thing. "No picture has ever been published of Lori Klausutis, the deceased aide of Joe Scarborough," All Hat says.
Hey, I haven’t been able to find a photo and I enlisted some pretty good help in looking.
So how is all of this not a mystery?
It remains a strange, loosely explained chapter in the life of Scarborough – one of today’s most popular news hosts – that lingers in the darkened shadows of Google searches and on Wikipedia.
Along with the question of why, in today’s tabloid news-driven world, further questions seemingly never really have been raised in the media about Klausutis death by her friends, relatives and/or co-workers. Along with Scarborough’s hasty exit from congress and politics, which had he remained, surely would have resulted in Klausutis death and questions surrounding his marital fidelity to become issues in future campaigns.
It’s all quite curious.