Weinergate: A curious scandal
Congressman Anthony Weiner's salacious Twitter scandal, in which a lewd photo was allegedly tweeted from his account by a hacker to a female college student, has juiced up an otherwise slow news week with adolescent headlines. Plus, people love to follow a good scandal, especially when it's about powerful men behaving badly, as DSK and Arnold Schwarzenegger have continued to prove in recent weeks. But why exactly are we so interested in the would-be New York mayor? Opinionators weigh in.
Is this news?
"What if news media spent as much time covering Twitter scandals as it did climate crisis, undeclared wars and joblessness?" Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor at the Nation, wondered on Twitter.
"For those saying we shouldn't cover the Weiner story," CNN's Anderson Cooper wrote, "would [you] feel same way if this had happened to a conservative [R]epublican? Just asking."
What's with Weiner's suspicious defense?
Asked by NBC’s Luke Russert whether the photograph was of his own genitals, Weiner replied: "You know, I can't say with certitude."
So the hacker not only got into Weiner's Twitter account but also into his pants? Or, Weiner has a whole collection of lewd photographs of himself, but he can't be sure the private parts in this particular photo are his own?
Why won't Weiner ask for an investigation of the hack into his account? Weiner's response yesterday that he wanted to save taxpayer money doesn't seem like a credible response for a man who wanted the federal government to institute a single-payer system that had Uncle Sam running the health-care sector. Better yet, why is Weiner still using the same Twitter account if he really did get hacked, as he claims?
Weiner's "uncharacteristically defensive performance" was "totally and completely out of character," says Steve Kornacki at Salon. He's typically "a smart, cocky, quick-witted quote machine." By dodging questions, says Dan Amira at New York, "Weiner is only inviting more suspicion on himself." And his "attempts to move on seem to just be making it worse," says Kashmir Hill in Forbes.
Is Weiner afraid to initiate an investigation because it's a felony to make false claims?
Legal analysts say one possible explanation for Mr. Weiner's reluctance to approach authorities may be that it is also a felony to make false claims to federal investigators. Martha Stewart learned that the hard way after she was convicted of lying to FBI agents.
Does this botch his plans to run for mayor of New York?
Would the mere existence of such a photo make him a bad person? Unfit for office? Not if the context is two consenting adults, neither of whom is the other's supervisor. Commenter Mitchell Young correctly made that point on my last post. The only scenario that's problematic is if he were sexually harassing the 21-year-old female mentioned in the tweet, but she says that wasn't the case.
He could have handled himself better -- and it's not too late.
[I]f evidence does emerge that he is sending lewd pictures to young women, he should be held to account for both harassment (the digital equivalent of street flashing) and lying to the public. But no one has presented any such evidence.
Meanwhile, though, Weiner's lame explanations seem to indicate that he has an embarrassing secret. Coming clean might be less embarrassing than continuing to feed the media beast.
Then again, Weiner’s not known for his maturity.
The question about Weiner has always been about his maturity, which is why the current Twitter foolishness is so damaging. Whatever the facts surrounding the photo that may or may not show the congressman's boxer-brief endowment, Weiner's reaction to questions about the trouser-tweet has been amateurish. First he tried to play it off as malicious hacking, then he angrily blasted a reporter as a "jackass," then he bumbled into a ridiculous sort-of admission that it's him in picture. Okay, so Weiner is embarrassed (and let's not forget the role of Andrew Breitbart in getting this started) -- but if this is how he deals with uncomfortable personal questions, voters are going to have a tough time imagining him leading the city in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. True, a bad temper and contempt for the press are hardly disqualifiers (see Koch, Ed, and Giuliani, Rudy), but those guys were already in City Hall before their nastier sides took over.
--Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) on Capitol Hill in Washington speaking to the media regarding a lewd photo tweet. Credit: Alex Wong / AFP/Getty Images