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Rep. Anthony Weiner, tweeting with fire

Weiner I started the day planning to blog about the double-dip housing market and the House of Representatives' plan for a fake debt-ceiling vote. But then the geeky side of me became fascinated with the (possibly trumped-up) scandal involving Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), the outspoken liberal who generates no small amount of love and loathing from partisans online.

Mediaite has done a nice job rounding up the facts and some of the speculation about the affair. It boils down to this:

Late Friday night, Weiner's Twitter feed briefly included a tweet directed at Gennette Nicole Cordova, a 21-year-old college student in Seattle, with a link to a lewd photo of a man's underwear-clad crotch. That photo was posted on Weiner's account at a photo-sharing site. The tweet and the photo were soon deleted, and Weiner posted a seemingly lighthearted tweet saying he'd been hacked ("TiVo shot. FB hacked. Is my blender gonna attack me next?") But about two hours after the original tweet was published, Andrew Breitbart's right-of-center blog BigGovernment.com posted the photo and a redacted version of the deleted tweet, saying, "Hacked or hung? Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY 9″) finds himself in a late night online pickle."

Various folks have tried to discern from the few inarguable facts about the incident whether Weiner was telling the truth about being hacked. Fox News' site, for instance, carried an idiotic piece  by RedState blogger Neil Stevens claiming that Weiner's tweets minutes after the offending post -- tweets that were, incidentally, about the hockey game his TiVo failed to record -- show that his account couldn't have been hacked. Note to Stevens: It's child's play for several people to post simultaneously to a single Twitter account. All they need are the user's name and password. That's usually what happens when people get hacked: They don't get locked out of their account, they merely find themselves sharing it unwittingly.

I'm inclined to believe Weiner, although I don't for a minute understand why he followed the aforementioned 21-year-old on Twitter after she started following his tweets. That just seems, well, odd; Cordova's not a constituent, and he's following only a fraction of the nearly 50,000 people who follow him. She is, however, a journalist (at her college paper), which may be the innocent explanation for how she made Weiner's list.

I'm also inclined to believe Cordova's take on the scandal, which the New York Daily News published Sunday. (Best lines: "The point I am trying to make is that, contrary to the impression that I apparently gave from my tweet, I am not his [Weiner's] girlfriend. Nor am I the wife, girlfriend or mistress of Barack Obama, Ray Allen or Cristiano Ronaldo, despite the fact that I have made similar assertions about them via Twitter.")

What interests me most about this is the dilemma Weiner finds himself in. He's as media savvy as they come, and he evidently believed that the best way to respond to the incident was to make fun of it briefly, then say no more. That's one of the first things I imagine that media coaches tell public figures: Don't add fuel to the fire. But his refusal to talk about this topic has become a story in itself. And he's basically ceded the microphone to opponents who want to keep the story alive.

Would an elected official be stupid enough to post a lewd picture of himself on Twitter? Given what we've learned from Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.), the answer, sadly, is that it's not out of the question. That sorry precedent makes it more difficult for Weiner to dismiss the incident with a couple of zingers. But then, Weiner has probably said (and tweeted) enough to satisfy the Democrats who liked him before the incident, and it's not clear whether anything he said or did would satisfy the Republicans who didn't.

As for me, I'd love to see a screen grab showing where the tweet with the offensive link came from. If it came from yfrog, that would buttress Weiner's story and pretty much destroy his critics' claim that he was trying to send the picture privately to the coed as a direct Twitter message. As best I can tell, that's not possible in yfrog -- all it can do is blast photos to all of one's Twitter followers.

I suspect that investigators with subpoenas could track the disputed tweet back to the computer that originally sent it. Weiner may not have sought such a probe, however, at least not yet. Instead, he told the New York Post, he's hired a lawyer to advise him about what to do next. The incident "was intended to distract," he said, adding, "I'm not going to let it do it."

Good luck with that.

-- Jon Healey

Credit:  Harry Hamburg / Associated Press




Comments () | Archives (29)

The comments to this entry are closed.


You're inclined to believe him? Even knowing that he tweeted earlier re the time of an upcoming TV appearance in Seattle, the 21-year-old's city? That he has not called the police? If you were a politician and someone did this to you, would just let it drop? Especially if you could nail the left's white whale, Breitbart? Would you delete all your photos immediately after the photo surfaced? And would you claim to be "hacked" one moment, "pranked" the next and refuse to even answer the question of whether or not it's you in the photo?


chuck wejnon

possibly trumped up?

lol..i've haven't read anything so biased in a long time? you write for a newspaper? so let me ask you, if it was a conservative christian republiucan instead of a liberal jewish democrat would you be screaching bloody murder right now? god i hate you liberals


That giant sucking sound you hear is the editorial credibility of the LA Times going down the drain.


The person that posted the following has serious mental problems:

" god i hate you liberals"

Get some help with that, commenter. And stay away from children.


The lack of journalism/media integrity regarding one of their own heroes, who has not only; committed an act of perversion and stupidity, attempted a cover-up, accused "hackers" of federal law violations... Yet, he doesn't want to involve the FBI? Amazingly pathetic.

Freedom Fan

Wow LA Times. Nice job trying to help your lib buddy, Weiner cover up (so to speak).

Forget the fluffy article; this is all you need to know:

Weiner does not want an investigation into the "hack". Why?

Is that an act of guilt of innocence?

In contrast, someone hacked Sarah Palin's Facebook password, but that person now is spending a year in jail.

Jon Healey

@Popglossop -- If I were a congressman who'd been pranked with a lewd photo sent on my yfrog account, I'd sic the FBI on it. But I'd also say little or nothing about the incident because a) that just keeps the story alive, and b) no one would believe me anyway. The more times people see the photo, even if it wasn't posted by me, the more I'm tarnished just by association. If we've learned anything about contemporary political culture, it's that a large segment of the population doesn't trust anything that their elected officials tell them. See the reaction to Obama's release of his birth records and his announcement that special forces had killed Bin Laden in Pakistan just for starters.

Jon Healey

@Chuck wejnon -- Why did you choose that particular last name? And why is Weiner's religion, or yours, relevant?

P J Evans

It's interesting that only *one* person, among the 45,000 following Weiner, saw that picture and got a screen capture of it. It's so interesting that a lot of us suspect that that *one* person set it up - he was spreading rumors for three weeks beforehand.

I'll believe Weiner is that stupid when I see actual evidence of it.
Until then, I'll assume that anyone who sends stuff to Breitbart is working FOR Breitbart, and thus seriously unreliable as a witness to anything. (Breitbart, you should recall, has a history of this kind of entrapment,and shouldn't be given space by any legitimate news organization.)


No, No, he made a big mistake. She requested a photo of Anthony Weiner


You are inclined to believe Weiner? He won't even deny that it's him in the picture. I'm inclined to believe you're just hoping it's not true.

I couldn't tell you the first thing about twitter, but boy have I developed an eye for politicians that act guilty - and Weiner is done.


"I'm inclined to believe Weiner, "

Your editor should fire you for gullibility.


Wow... it's pathetic, but expected, how the Democrat-biased journalists are scrambling to the rescue of Weiner. Let this be the preview of what to expect in the 2012 Presidential election. (if you haven't noticed the bias yet.)

wf allen

Rep Weiner is afraid of jail

Making a false complaint to the FBI is a felony.
(USC- 18-1001 False Stements) You can do 5 years.

It would take the cops a day to check out his story.

So if his "hacking" story were legit, he would report the crime, if only to protect his reputation from people like me. But he doesnt. He's lying to the public.

His excuse? His work in Congress is so important we cant afford the distraction. I mean, really, important work in Congress? He's there 24x7?


Jon, if you really don't know why Weiner was "following" the young woman, maybe you should read the Washington Post. The answer: he's following all the tweeters who asked him to follow them. "On May 13, the congressman sent a tweet to his tens of thousands of Twitter followers, telling them to send him a message including “#WeinerYes” if they wanted him to follow their accounts."


"I'm inclined to believe Weiner"

I'm filing this one under, Least Surprising Sentence Fragment Ever Written. Don't all Times editorial-board members reflexively believe liberals? My head starts spinning when I think of how this story would be covered if the subject was Michelle Bachmann instead of Anthony Weiner.

Miss Orange

Would an elected official be stupid enough to post a lewd picture of himself on Twitter?

Healey, you're about as idiotic as Neil Stevens. One of two things happened: Weiner fat-fingered what was supposed to be a DM (Direct Message) and instead tweeted it wide, or the message got "split" and the DM switch on the yfrog URL was deleted. From Twitter support:

If your message is longer than 140 characters and Twitter receives it intact, we will send your message in two parts for you. But, beware: if your service provider breaks up long messages into two parts before sending the message to Twitter, we will only see the d+username attached to the first message! The second part will post to the public time line as a regular update because it doesn’t have the d+username preceding it.


I have nothing against the congressman (and have heard he's a nice guy) but as a chief editor of a multimedia company, this column really concerns the heck out of me. I just don't see how someone could look at the facts of this case, listen to him talk to CNN today, and be "inclined to believe him." If you mean he's innocent until proven guilty or something -- yes, by all means. But I just cannot fathom you'd reach this inclination if he was a Republican.

Mitchell Young

I don't understand this story. Even if his sent a picture of him in his Fruit of the Loom tighty whities, who cares? The woman in question is 21. In '92, a young co-ed asked Clinton 'boxers or briefs'? Wiener is just using today's technology to answer the question.


How come the sleazy right wing hatchet men knew about the tweet before the intended recipient and the sender? Why does the press treat these phony “journalists” as anything other than crackpots?


I did not think it was possible. But Weiner and Whatshername-Schultz have replaced Reid and Pelosi as the two most obnoxiously irritating politicians in America. Thank you Democrat voters.

morris wise

Centuries of female pent up emotions are now exploding, and it is payback time. Rape-hate persecutions are tearing into the bankbooks and testicles of innocent men; order has to be restored. A temporary refusal by the police to accept complaints of sexual assault will cool off the anger of feminist nazi`s that have gone mad. Men must be protected against the new witch hunt.

Robert Isajew

Glad to see Chuck "Nonjew" leaving his usual haunts -- Stormfront, KKK.com, MelGibsonIsRight.com etc. -- to share his bigotry with the inferior races.

Seig Heil, Chuckles!



Uh oh Andrew ... someone's been 'monitoring' you ...



Jon Healey

@Miss Orange -- Interesting theories. You're right, I was wrong -- it is possible to send direct messages from yfrog. But I wasn't able to confirm the "split" phenomenon -- the overly long messages I sent still reached Twitter as single, truncated DMs. Also, the text of the message in question hardly suggests that it's the tail end of a longer post. It looks like a reply. If Weiner was the person sending the offending link, it's most likely that he the reply button on TweetDeck instead of the DM button. If the message came from yfrong instead of TweetDeck, then it's less probable, but certainly conceivable, that he typed @GennetteNicole instead of D GennetteNicole.

Jon Healey

@Todd -- Not sure which facts you're looking at, 'cause there aren't many. The technical explanations offered by Weiner's accusers are either flat-out wrong or, in the case of our Miss Orange here, no more plausible than Weiner's explanation that he got hacked. There are plenty of questions here and lots of guesswork, and much of the guesswork is just, well, bad.

Which could be true of my speculation as well. But honestly, if Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin were accused of doing something like this, I'd be inclined to think it was a hack in their cases too. Like Weiner, they're lightning rods for criticism from the other side. They're natural targets for dirty tricks, just as they're the subjects of intense scrutiny by people who oppose them legitimately. And I'd probably think that the best course of action for them would be to alert the FBI and then move on. I don't blame Weiner for trying to do the latter, but I don't understand why he apparently hasn't done the former.

glenn grab

you say you're "inclined to believe him"..then you give good reasons why you shouldn't believe him?...you're starting to use Mehgan Daum's logic...look, Weiner's ego got into his pants, it's happened to most of us at times, but with this self-rightious fool it's almost comical if it weren't so pathetic...Anthony Weiner as a sex symbol?...does he think some beautiful 21 year-old co-ed wants him.....he couldn't get laid in prison!!!...


It's looking like this gasbag actually did it. Time to resign or prison time?


I'm inclined to believe him now, that he did it. Prior, I was inclined to not believe him, as his excuses were implausible. I have no partisan or ideological bone to pick in the matter.



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