Not much news, but wall-to-wall coverage
I was a block from the White House when I heard the loud rumble, saw park benches rattling and wondered whether a passing cement truck was to blame.
Despite my finely honed journalistic instincts, I didn’t realize it was an earthquake. People looked around, puzzled, and resumed their conversations. Only when thousands of workers started pouring out of downtown office buildings did I realize that something of a higher magnitude was up.
But it wasn’t much of a higher magnitude, at least this distance from the epicenter of the 5.8 quake in Virginia. Imagine my surprise, then, when I walked into the Upper Crust pizzeria and, up on the wall past the freshly baked pies, saw CNN in breaking-news mode. Uh, what happened to the Libyan rebels who had just taken over the Gaddafi compound? They had vanished. On the cable news channels, it was all quake all the time.
It was a perfect media story on a sunny Tuesday afternoon: Lots of pictures, lots of person-on-the-street interviews, lots of clicks online—but without the messy and depressing reality of an actual disaster. No one, as far as I can tell, was seriously injured, but everyone was buzzing. As officials called press conferences, it looked, felt and smelled like news—but only in a surreal sense.
Now, of course we should cover such an unusual East Coast event, minor though it might be in L.A. The Capitol was evacuated, trains were slowed down, flights were delayed and work ground to a halt in the capital—though in late August, it was hard to tell. Some D.C. buildings sustained minor damage, and, as I can personally attest (since the building housing the NEWSWEEK/Daily Beast bureau was shut down for the day), traffic was in utter gridlock even miles from downtown as everyone tried to drive home at once. Cellphone service was close to nonexistent.
Meanwhile, there was a 5.7 earthquake near Trinidad, Colo. at midnight Monday that also did little damage. Did you hear about it? No, because Colorado isn’t a major media center, crawling with TV crews the way Washington is (not to mention New York, where news executives got interested when their skyscrapers swayed).
Honestly, given that no one was badly hurt, doesn’t this wall-to-wall coverage feel like overkill? Isn’t this going to feel like a blip on the media Richter scale tomorrow? Whatever happened to those Libyan rebels, anyway?
Conservative allies are shooting at one another over the Boehner debt plan.
If the Republican Party isn’t having a collective nervous breakdown about the impending default deadline, it’s doing a pretty good imitation.
The level of finger-pointing within the conservative movement is getting uglier by the moment.
It’s not that Democrats don’t have plenty of divisions over the Obama approach—hey, they’re Democrats—but at the moment the heat is really on John Boehner. He’s caught between his usual corporate backers, who desperately want a debt deal, and his Tea Party wing, which has opposed every effort at hammering out a compromise.
Keep in mind that Boehner is proposing $1.2 trillion in spending cuts—and none of the tax increases sought by Democrats--in the first phase of his blueprint to raise the debt ceiling before the Aug. 2 deadline.
John McCain went off on the “bizarre” logic of Republicans who are opposing the House speaker’s latest plan. “Maybe some people who have only been in this body for six or seven months or so really believe that,” McCain said. “Others know better. Others know better.”
The party’s 2008 presidential candidate also took a whack at the Tea Party insurgents who knocked off establishment figures in last year’s Senate primaries and then crashed and burned. “This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into G.O.P. nominees,” he said.
Meanwhile—and this is like a scene from some B-movie about Washington—some GOP lawmakers were chanting “fire him, fire him!” at a Republican staffer who incurred their displeasure.
Some of the rank and file were angry about e-mails from Paul Teller, executive director of the Republican Study Group, a caucus of 175 mostly conservative House members, to right-wing activists, urging them to “kill the Boehner deal.” One of his staffers, according to Politico, wrote that “we need statements coming up to the Hill every hour of the day in mounting opposition to the plan.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who belongs to the group, was quoted as saying that “I don’t like to see Republicans attacking other Republicans.”
If so, this must not be a great week for Cantor.
Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol let Boehner’s critics on the right have it, saying: “To vote against John Boehner on the House floor this week in the biggest showdown of the current Congress is to choose to vote with Nancy Pelosi. To vote against Boehner is to choose to support Barack Obama. It is to choose to increase the chances that worse legislation than Boehner’s passes.”
And there was this live-in-the-real-world slam from Kristol: “Can the pro-Obama right explain how defeat for Boehner on the House floor would redound to conservatives' benefit, to their ability to do more and to go further?”
That was pattycake, though, compared to the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which finds it strange that some GOPers and outside conservatives are condemning Boehner’s proposal as a “fiscal sellout”:
“The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.”
Boehner himself aimed some pretty sharp language at his hell-no bloc, anchored by the 87 freshmen elected last November. “Well, first they want more,” said Boehner. “And my goodness, I want more too. And secondly, a lot of them believe that if we get past August the second and we have enough chaos, we could force the Senate and the White House to accept a balanced budget amendment. I’m not sure that that — I don’t think that that strategy works. Because I think the closer we get to August the second, frankly, the less leverage we have vis a vis our colleagues in the Senate and the White House.”
And several news outlets are reporting that Boehner told his COP colleagues at a closed-door meeting: "Get your ass in line." Pretty strong words from an obviously frustrated party leader.
The heat of the moment is melting away the usual niceties that bind together members of the same political party. This is pretty close to a circular firing squad as Boehner scrambles to find 218 votes to avert fiscal Armaggeddon. It would be downright entertaining if the stakes weren’t so high.
Despite denials at the time, e-mails show the administration boasted about an attempt to exclude the network from a round-robin interview.
The Obama administration made a deliberate effort to exclude Fox News from a press pool during the height of its war with the network, newly released documents show.
At the time, in the fall of 2009, the administration dismissed the matter as simply a mistake. “There was no plot to exclude Fox News, and they had the same interview that their competitors did. Much ado about absolutely nothing,” the Treasury Department said in a statement. But internal e-mails obtained by the watchdog group Judicial Watch show that the attempted exclusion from an interview with federal pay czar Ken Feinberg was part of a deliberate strategy. The attempt failed when the other networks refused to go along unless Fox was included.
On Oct. 22, 2009, Dag Vega, the White House director of broadcast media, wrote to a Treasury official that “we’d prefer if you skip Fox please.” Deputy White House communications director Jennifer Psaki wrote the official, Jenni LeCompte, and other colleagues about a report by Fox anchor Bret Baier on the network’s exclusion that “brett baier just did a stupid piece on it -- but he is a lunatic.”
The next day, Psaki wrote: “I am putting some dead fish in the fox cubby – just cause.” And deputy press secretary Josh Earnest wrote LeCompte that day: “We’ve demonstrated our willingness and ability to exclude Fox News from significant interviews…”
A watchdog group wants to know whether Americans were victims in the phone hacking scandal
The scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World has remained safely on the other side of the Atlantic—until now.
A Washington watchdog group on Monday asked Congress to investigate whether journalists at the British division of Murdoch’s News Corp. have hacked into the voice mail of Americans.
The request by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) comes as the Guardian is reporting that another Murdoch tabloid, the Sun, obtained confidential information from former British prime minister Gordon Brown.
“It is becoming increasingly clear this scandal was not perpetrated by a few rogue reporters, but was systematically orchestrated at the highest levels of News Corp.,” Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, said in a statement. “If Mr. Murdoch’s employees can be so brazen as to target the British prime minister, then it is not unreasonable to believe they also might hack into the voicemails of American politicians and citizens.”
The Mirror has published a story in which an unnamed former New York City police officer claims to have been offered money by News of the World to access the phone records of 9/11 victims and their families. The story suggested the now-shuttered tabloid was mainly interested in British victims.
Murdoch’s detractors would like nothing more than to shift the investigative spotlight to such News Corp. properties in the States as the New York Post and Fox News.
“Given the ever-increasing number of Murdoch publications involved, combined with the allegation that News Corp. journalists sought access to the voicemails of 9/11 victims and their families, America cannot leave this investigation entirely to the British,” Sloan said.
Juror Wants Big Bucks for Interview
The great media scramble is on to land the first interview with a juror in the Casey Anthony murder trial—and the smell of money is in the air.
Given the huge amount of coverage her acquittal on murder and manslaughter charges is generating, there is obvious interest in getting an inside account on why the jury so quickly dismissed the prosecution’s charges that Anthony had killed her 2-year-old daughter.
Juror No. 6 is interested in talking—for a price of at least $50,000.
Undoubtedly mindful that the networks have sometimes paid big licensing fees for photos or other property of interview subjects, the “college-educated” juror has hired a North Carolina publicist to shop his story around. Below is the e-mail that PR man Rick French sent to the networks.
Casey Anthony Verdict (Casey Anthony Verdict)
From: "Rick French"
Date: July 6, 2011 12:02:07 PM EDT
To: < >
Subject: Juror in the Casey Anthony Trial
Good Morning, my name is Rick French and my firm has been retained to handle media requests of Juror #6 in the Casey Anthony murder trial. Your name has been forwarded to us because you gave your contact information to the court and that information was in turn passed along to all jurors.
Our client—a married, college-educated, 33-year-old white male with two young children – is willing to consider granting one or more media interviews so long as the opportunities are paid, which I know is always a sticky subject and believe me, I understand the delicacy of this type of negotiation. He will not entertain any offers that don’t include compensation for a myriad of reasons.
If you are interested in discussing his request with me and can meet our client’s terms, feel free to e-mail me or call me at the number below.
The Daily Beast’s Diane Dimond witnessed the following exchange between juror No. 6 and a prosecutor during jury selection:
Asst. Prosecutor Frank George: "You know you have the right not to talk to any media after this is over...media like Dateline, shows like that. Would you do that?"
Juror No. 6: "I don't see why I would."
Environmental group uses Newsweek and Daily Beast report to blast the congressman’s personal stake in oil subsidies he has sought to protect.
Last month, a Newsweek Daily Beast investigation looked into the personal finances of Rep Paul Ryan, and how the policies in his “Path to Prosperity” budget squared with his personal holdings.
Now, at least one environmental group has seized on the report to accuse Ryan of hypocrisy.
A new TV ad from the Washington-based nonprofit League of Conservation Voters contrasts Ryan’s public comments about getting rid of tax breaks for oil companies with his efforts in Congress to protect $45 billion in energy subsidies over the next decade. That, and how several oil, gas and mineral companies Ryan and his wife, Janna, co-own in Texas and Oklahoma would benefit from the subsidies. The holdings earned the couple as much as $117,000 in income last year, according to Ryan’s financial disclosure.
“A Newsweek investigation reveals Ryan, his wife and father-in-law made hundreds of thousands from oil companies that lease their land—companies that will profit from the tax breaks that Ryan helped pass,” the announcer ominously booms.
“Paul Ryan, protecting Big Oil profits. Lining his own pockets.”
When reached for a response, Ryan’s office dismissed the ad. “The baseless attacks in this ad are too ridiculous to be taken seriously,” said Kevin Seifert, a spokesman for Ryan.
The spot will air in the Milwaukee media market, which includes Ryan’s district. The congressman is up for reelection for his House seat next year, but he has also flirted with higher aspirations. In early June, when Fox News’ Neil Cavuto asked Ryan whether he’d consider a bid for the White House in 2012, Ryan danced around the question -- "Look, I think I want to see how this field develops” – before saying he wasn’t “really thinking like that.”
Still, at least one online movement has tried to draft him into running.
Her lawyer was right to denounce the coverage, but it’s worse than he says
Casey Anthony’s lawyer was half-right in complaining about “media assassination” soon after she was acquitted of murder and manslaughter.
Cheney Mason said Tuesday that he hoped “incompetent talking heads…talking about cases they don’t know a damned thing about” had learned a lesson from the surprise verdict.
Lots of legal loudmouths in our Judge Judy culture convicted Anthony of killing her 2-year-old daughter. The Nancy Graces of the world are more interested in vociferous opinions--in her case, siding with prosecutors in almost every case--than in dispassionately weighing the evidence.
But many of them failed to make the crucial distinction between when someone seems guilty as hell and whether prosecutors have proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt--especially in a death penalty trial. Jurors are usually cautious in a circumstantial case, as was clear from the quickie nature of their verdict.
Group claims credit for Twitter posts claiming president was killed
The hacking of a Fox News account on Twitter has set off some Fourth of July fireworks, made all the more disturbing by the vicious content involving President Obama.
And the choice of Fox doesn’t seem to be an accident.
Fox issued a statement saying the messages—that Obama had been assassinated—were obviously wrong and that it regrets “any distress the false tweets may have created.”
What point the hackers were trying to make remains a mystery, though their distaste for Fox appears to underline the malicious exercise.
Adam Peck, who blogs at a Stony Brook University site called Think, reported that he interviewed a member of the hacker group Script Kiddies, which claimed responsibility for the hack. Peck reports that Script Kiddies has joined with such groups as Anonymous and the now-defunct LulzSec in the anti-security movement that has targeted corporations and government.
Peck quoted his Script Kiddies informant as saying: “I would consider us to be close in relation [to Anonymous], 2 of the members of our group were members of Anonymous. I was a member of Anonymous. We hope to be working with them soon…
“We are looking to find information about corporations to assist with antisec. Fox News was selected because we figured their security would be just as much of a joke as their reporting.”
The unnamed source indicated that Fox could be the subject of further attacks: “I’ve looked into their security and site defacement does not seem to be an option. Everything else is fair game.”
The tweets from @foxnewspolitics, which has 37,000 followers, ricocheted around Twitter and were not removed until around noon on Monday. The New York Times says the Secret Service is looking into the matter and that Fox is conducting its own inquiry. Twitter declined to comment, citing privacy concerns.
One of the first tweets from the hackers, in the early-morning hours Monday, said Obama “has just passed. The President is dead. A sad 4th of July indeed.”
A subsequent tweet said he Obama been “shot twice in the lower pelvic area and in the neck; shooter unknown,” and had “bled out.” The next one said he had been shot at Ross’s restaurant in Iowa.
In fact, Obama had been spending the weekend with his family at Camp David and returned to Washington on Sunday.
The final message said stated: “We wish @joebiden the best of luck as our new President of the United States. In such a time of madness, there’s light at the end of tunnel.”
The style of the tweets makes them seem an obvious fake, but anything can go viral in today’s wired culture. Hackers have been able to access all kinds of accounts, and the damage can be significant: When Sony was hacked by the LulzSec outfit, personal information from more than 1 million users’ accounts was released. The Fox attack was different in its attempt to discredit a news network by released fabricated and disturbing reports.
Jeff Misenti, general manager of Fox News Digital, says that “FoxNews.com is working with Twitter to address the situation as quickly as possible. We will be requesting a detailed investigation from Twitter about how this occurred, and measures to prevent future unauthorized access into FoxNews.com accounts.”
Time columnist apologizes for dickish description of Obama as the White House calls comments “inappropriate.”
Barack Obama has been called plenty of names on television, as cable fans know all too well.
But I don’t think anyone has called the president of the United States a dick—at least until now.
Mark Halperin, the Time magazine columnist and MSNBC contributor, was assessing Obama’s performance at a news conference when he delivered this opinion Thursday morning on Morning Joe:
“I thought he was a dick yesterday.”
Yup. He went there.
Host Joe Scarborough was not pleased, saying: “Delay that. Delay that. What are you doing?” But the program has a new executive producer who didn’t react by hitting the seven-second delay button.
Now I would be a dick if I didn’t point out that Halperin quickly tried to make amends: “Joking aside, this is an absolute apology. I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize to the president and the viewers who heard me say that.”
But as more than one wit has pointed out, playing off the title of the best-seller co-authored by Halperin, that was a game changer. Two hours after Morning Joe went off the air, MSNBC suspended him.
The comments, the network said in a statement, “were completely inappropriate and unacceptable. We apologize to the president, the White House and all of our viewers. We strive for a high level of discourse and comments like these have no place on our air. Therefore, Mark will be suspended indefinitely from his role as an analyst.”
Halperin, in an accompanying statement, called MSNBC’s reaction “totally appropriate. Again, I want to offer a heartfelt and profound apology to the president, to my MSNBC colleagues, and to the viewers. My remark was unacceptable, and I deeply regret it.”
Halperin and co-author John Heilemann had incredible access to most of the 2008 campaigns for their book Game Change, which is being made into a movie, but didn’t get much inside stuff from the Obama camp. With the two journalists now working on a sequel for 2012—sold for a reported $5 million—Halperin’s locker-room epithet won’t be terribly helpful in terms of his relations with the White House and Obama reelection campaign.
I know that people can blurt out stupid things on live television; a few weeks ago a Gawker writer used the same word on my CNN program in referring to Anthony Weiner’s package, and I apologized on her behalf. But Halperin is a seasoned veteran who should know better than to use that word in front of the cameras—and I’m sure he is kicking himself as we speak.
Update: The Halperin suspension didn’t take place in a vacuum. The White House quickly complained to MSNBC.
Press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Halperin’s comment “was inappropriate. It would be inappropriate to say that about either president of either party.”
Carney added that “on behalf of the White House, I expressed that sentiment to executives at the network.” He declined to comment on the suspension.
Halperin is a former ABC News political director whose day job is at Time, where he writes a weekly column and a Web site called The Page. The magazine did not suspend him but issued this scolding: “Mark Halperin’s comments on air this morning were inappropriate and in no way reflective of Time’s views. We have issued a warning to him that such behavior is unacceptable. Mark has appropriately apologized on air, via Twitter and on The Page.”
Cap and trade used to be cool--now it's radioactive.
Jon Huntsman has come up with a novel explanation for his decision to run away from the cap-and-trade policy he once embraced:
It used to be popular, and now it’s not.
“Cap and trade is something that every governor looked at, every governor consulted CEOs and the experts on many years ago,” the newly minted presidential candidate told Fox’s Sean Hannity in an interview that aired Wednesday. Sitting in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, Huntsman said: “In today’s economic environment, there’s no way we should be promoting anything that stands in the way of economic and business recovery, and that would.”
Nor was this an off-the-cuff response to Hannity’s declaration that cap and trade, like civil unions for gays, is not a conservative position. The former Utah governor also told Fox & Friends that “many, many years ago,” “everybody talked about it…Everyone took it seriously.”
Seriously? That’s his explanation? That was then, this is now? If cap and trade is such a flawed policy, wouldn’t it have hampered economic growth back then as well?
The veteran anchor says he wasn’t trying to criticize her in praising the new CBS newscast.
Ted Koppel has become a fan of Scott Pelley. But he wants it clear he isn’t dissing Katie Couric.
“I thought Katie did a terrific job as anchor,” he says. “I watched Katie’s broadcast almost every night.” But, he says, Couric and her executive producer Rick Kaplan—a onetime Koppel producer at Nightline—“were operating under the structure of CBS News as it existed then,” which requires that “you go with the sexiest story of the day.”
By contrast, Koppel says of the new CBS Evening News, “what pleases me is that they are leading with the most important story of the day rather than the Weiner story of the day.” Picking up on what he said at the New America Foundation, Koppel says: “The broadcast is going hard news and I consider that to be an improvement.” He credits the new CBS News chairman, Jeff Fager, for change in direction.
“There’s a desperate competition which leads newscasts to provide what the public wants, not what the public needs. I realize that’s an elitist point of view, but that’s what journalists are paid to do.”
How convenient for some in the GOP to rethink their commitment on Obama’s watch.
The pundits are offering all kinds of explanations for the emergence of a vocal antiwar faction in the Republican Party.
Here’s one they’re missing: The turnover in the White House.
If George Bush were still president—or if John McCain had managed to succeed him—most, by not all, of the GOP voices expressing qualms about Afghanistan and Libya would be muted or silent.
The New York Times says Republicans are developing “a more nuanced view,” with candidates such as Jon Huntsman saying we have to consider the cost of remaining in Afghanistan and Michele Bachmann questioning whether we should have intervened in Libya. Well, maybe.
But prosecuting unpopular wars is like raising the debt ceiling: You hold your nose and do it when your party controls the White House, and you have a free shot to oppose it—or at least criticize it—when the president is from the other party. The applause lines write themselves: We should be spending that money in Kansas, not Kabul, and so on.
During the Bush years, Democrats who dared suggest that we get out of Iraq—especially considering the false premise on which we got in--were accused of cutting and running in the fight against terrorism. If Bush were still in office, Afghanistan would still be his war and most Republicans would be reluctant to stray from the party line. (The Democrats, as a more fractious party, don’t do lockstep unity very well, and many would love an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan even though their guy is in the Oval Office.)
To be sure, the strains of propping up the Karzai regime after a decade are taking a toll on the public and both political parties. Since Obama’s surge was supposed to lead to a withdrawal starting next month, it’s natural there would be a vigorous debate over whether more than a token number of troops will come home.
In similar fashion, Obama casually inserted the U.S. military into the war in Libya, delaying a televised speech for more than a week, and even though other NATO countries have taken the lead in the bombing campaign, it’s fair to ask whether America’s vital interests are at stake.
But let’s admit the obvious: It’s a lot easier for some Republicans to break with the Bush orthodoxy now that America’s military conflicts are Obama’s wars.
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.
He doesn’t know if that’s him in the gray underwear? Howard Kurtz on why the congressman’s evasive answers are fueling the media frenzy.
I have just watched a number of respected anchors and correspondents discussing a package that may or may not belong to Anthony Weiner.
It has come to this.
“Is this you?” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked, brandishing said photo.
“You would know if this was your underpants.”
“Have you ever taken a picture like this of yourself?”
Fox’s Bret Baier: “Is this Twitter picture in question a picture of you?”
“Is there a picture out there of you in your drawers that you are worried about?”
ABC’s Jonathan Karl: “You can’t tell me definitively that is a photo of you or not a photo of you?”
CBS’s Nancy Cordes: “I think any normal person could say with certainty whether a picture was a photo of them or not, whether they had taken a photo of them or not.”
The truth is, they had no choice. The New York congressman’s shifting explanations—his refusal to say whether the bulge seen round the world is in fact his—have stretched this Twitter tale into a weeklong soap opera.
At the outset, I argued that Weiner was entitled to the presumption of innocence. He claimed his Twitter account had been hacked. He insisted that he didn’t send the underwear shot to a 21-year-old Seattle student, who said she had never met the Democratic lawmaker and didn’t think he had tweeted it to her. The guy was married less than a year ago to former Hillary Clinton aide Hume Abedin. He couldn’t be so dumb, could he?
But after listening to Weiner bob and weave and talk about how photographs can be manipulated, and how he’s called in experts to determine whether that is or isn’t his junk, I have to say: he’s not acting very smart. The explanations seem increasingly bizarre. In the court of public opinion, at least, Weiner has forfeited the presumption of innocence.
His continued insistence that some hacker had sent the photo is a bit more suspect in light of his non-denial denials of the other details. The Twitter exchange he had with a porn star sounds a little more incriminating.
It’s the oldest story in Washington: the cover-up—even of a crotch shot—is what trips you up in the end.
If Weiner had confessed from the start, it would not have been a one-day story, not when the perpetrator is a hard-charging congressman widely expected to run for New York mayor when Mike Bloomberg’s term ends. But it would have, forgive me, petered out before long.
Instead, the tangled tale became a cable news and Web fixture precisely because there were so many unanswered questions.
From the moment the tweet was reported on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government site, conservatives have argued that the liberal media were protecting Weiner, but I think most journalists showed admirable restraint while continuing to report on the story. You don’t want to smear him, or the young woman involved, if it turns out he was pranked.
“I have seen myself labeled as the ‘Femme Fatale of Weinergate,’ ‘Anthony Weiner's 21-year-old coed mistress’ and ‘the self-proclaimed girlfriend of Anthony Weiner,’” Gennette Cordova said. “All of this is so outlandish that I don't know whether to be pissed off or amused, quite frankly.”
Weiner tried to pass the thing off as a practical joke inspired by his last name, hoping the press would move on. That proved to be a spectacular miscalculation, as he must have realized as reporters on the Hill cornered him and challenged his increasingly testy answers.
When Chris Lee, an upstate New York Republican, was caught sending a shirtless photo to a woman on Craigslist, he resigned his House seat within hours. Mark Sanford admitted he wasn’t really hiking the Appalachian Trail. Eliot Spitzer quit two days after the New York Times revealed that he was patronizing prostitutes. John Ensign apologized for having an affair with an aide’s wife, though it took him nearly two years to resign. Arnold Schwarzenegger confessed to fathering a child with his housekeeper after confronted by the Los Angeles Times. None of them mitigated the damage, but they spared themselves the tortured path of continued deceit.
A conspicuous exception was John Edwards, who denied both having an affair with his campaign videographer and fathering her child until he was busted on both counts by the National Enquirer. He now faces possible indictment for misuse of campaign funds.
Sending a young woman a lewd photo is not an impeachable offense, but it is monumentally bad judgment. Saying you’re not sure if that’s you in the gray underwear is unimpeachably stupid.
Yes, the media are enjoying weinergate a little too much. But the congressman has no one to blame but himself.
The congressman says he's a Twitter victim, and the press won't let go.
My Twitter feed filled up over the holiday weekend with demands that I write about Anthony Weiner and stop covering up his awful behavior.
Talk about mob justice. Can we find out first whether it was true?
By “it,” in case you were away for the Memorial Day break, I mean the lewd underwear photo that the New York congressman was alleged to have sent from his Twitter account to a 21-year-old student in Seattle.
Huh? Putting the weiner jokes aside, could he have been so stupid as to do that so soon after another New York lawmaker, Chris Lee, had to resign his House seat for sending a woman a shirtless photo on Craigslist? And after Weiner just got married last year to former Hillary aide Huma Abedin? He can’t be that bored yet.
I don’t know whether Weiner is a victim here or not. Of course the media, and especially the New York press, should look into the matter involving a rising political star. But what we have at the moment is a salacious picture that we’re not sure is Weiner (no face is shown), the congressman claiming he was hacked, and the student in question saying the picture wasn’t from him and she has no relationship with him.
After Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government site broke the story, New York’s Daily News got a pretty emphatic knockdown from a key source—the student, Gennette Cordova, who says she has never met Weiner.
“The account that these tweets were sent from was familiar to me; this person had harassed me many times after the congressman followed me on Twitter a month or so ago,” Cordova said in a statement. “Since I had dealt with this person and his cohorts before I assumed that the tweet and the picture were their latest attempts at defaming the congressman and harassing his supporters…
“I have seen myself labeled as the ‘Femme Fatale of Weinergate,’ ‘Anthony Weiner's 21-year-old coed mistress’ and ‘the self-proclaimed girlfriend of Anthony Weiner.’ All of this is so outlandish that I don't know whether to be pissed off or amused, quite frankly.”
So is Weiner merely the victim of a hack?
Well, not according to the conservative blogosphere. Among the questions bouncing around the Net:
--Why hasn’t the congressman called for an investigation of the hacking?
--Why did Weiner tweet what time one of his East Coast interviews would be shown in Seattle?
--Why is Gennette Cordova one of the 198 people he is following on Twitter? As the New York Post points out in a story headlined “Too Many Coincides in Weiner’s Tale,” “If two people follow each other on Twitter, they can send private messages unseen by others.” (Weiner told Talking Points Memo that he follows some fans who use the hashtag #WeinerYes. And yes, he seems to have sent one message to a porn-star fan.)
Weiner, who’s hired a lawyer, isn’t saying much right now, trying to put the flap behind him.
Part of the right-wing chest-thumping about this involves the false notion that the liberal media are protecting the Democrat (as opposed to the likes of Mark Sanford, David Vitter, John Ensign, Arnold Schwarzenegger—all of whom fessed up). Just like the press supposedly protected John Edwards until the National Enquirer got the goods on his mistress and love child.
But the reticence in both the Weiner and Edwards cases was due to a lack of evidence (unlike, say, in the Eliot Spitzer scandal, which was broken by The New York Times). I don’t mind saying that the mainstream media would get aroused by the Weiner story if it were confirmed.
Weiner’s account could still fall apart, but for the moment, he seems entitled to the presumption of innocence.
Comedian Dean Obeidallah reviews the former secretary of defense’s new book of rules.