Spin Cycle

06.07.11

A Weiner Sympathizer Recants

The blogger who told me the Anthony Weiner saga deserves little or no coverage admits he screwed up.

On Sunday, Jeff Jarvis seemed absolutely certain.

I invited him on my CNN program, Reliable Sources, to talk about the Anthony Weiner frenzy and he proceeded to scold those of us in the news business. (Here’s the video.)

Jarvis isn’t just some random blogger. He directs the interactive journalism program for the City University of New York’s graduate journalism program, was the founding editor of Entertainment Weekly, and is a former television critic for People and TV Guide, among other things.

“It's a fine story for Gawker, absolutely. It's a fine story for Jon Stewart,” Jarvis said on the air. “But all in all, what's the real story here? You know, that a congressman has a penis? Let's stipulate that, there's no news in that.

That he wears underwear? Who cares. That he might have accidentally sent out the wrong photo on Twitter? OK, big deal…The amount of effort that was put into this was just pathetic.”

When I pressed Jarvis about Weiner’s hard-to-believe alibi, he said: “If he had sexually harassed someone, then maybe there's a legitimate story. But if, at the most, he sent out a photo from his hard drive with his photo on it, what's the big deal? What's the news there? What's the impact on democracy and how we live our lives? Zippo.”

On Monday, of course, the New York congressman admitted that not only had he lied about tweeting that underwear photo to a 21-year-old college student, he had sent explicit photos and exchanged sexual messages with six women over the last three years. And Jarvis took to his Buzz Machine blog with an unabashed mea culpa.

“I was wrong about Anthony Weiner…Weiner lied. That is the story. That’s what haters said in email to me after the CNN segment. They were right.

“What’s most amazing to me is that anyone in politics in this age could still be stupid enough to think that the coverup won’t be what kills them…

“I’m trying to pull back from my personal embarrassment and stupidity at giving this shmuck the benefit of the doubt and see the lessons here about our age of publicness. There are many. It fascinates me that Twitter provides such an easy way for people to connect for *any* purpose. It astounds me that Weiner thought he could do this under his name with his face and think it would not end up being a public act…

“I keep forgetting to calculate into this view the forgetful, venal stupidity of the public official. That’s where I was wrong. Have I said that enough?”

Once is enough, Jeff. What he missed is that whatever one thinks of Weiner’s online shenanigans, you can’t tell a flimsy cover story in a dozen national television interviews and expect to get away with it.