Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Weiner Twitter Affair Perfect Scandal for Internet Age


COMMENTARY | Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., held a press conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan Monday in which he admitted that he had sent a picture of his crotch via Twitter to a woman in Seattle and then lied about it.

Weiner also admitted that he had engaged in "inappropriate" communications with at least six women on a variety of Internet social media, including Twitter and Facebook, as well as on the phone. Some had taken place before his marriage, some after. Weiner is not certain if some of the photos he sent were X rated or not, as some news outlets have reported. Also, "to the best of his knowledge," all of the women were adults.

One thing that Weiner declined to do was resign his seat in Congress. Nor, apparently, is there divorce from his wife in his future.

The confessional press conference, which was at times tearful and at other times defiant, was the latest twist in what has become a sordid sex scandal fit for the Internet age. Weiner had claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked, an explanation that was considered more and more unlikely as time went on.

Weiner's reason for not resigning from the Congress is that he says that while what he did was reprehensible, it was not illegal. This may be a distinction that does not help Weiner if he persist in holding onto his seat, especially if more revelations are forthcoming.

The whole affair provides a teachable moment. "Sexting," which involves the sending of salacious pictures, is usually a practice conducted by hormone addled teenagers, not by middle age members of Congress. Weiner is still embroiled in a controversy resulting from a series of actions over time that an outside observer would most likely find sickening. His ability to perform his duties as a congressman is compromised.

Of course, Weiner may not care. Perhaps he supposes that he can tough it out for the next several months and, somehow, win reelection. The strategy has worked on occasion, most notably for Barney Frank, whose relationship with male prostitute Steve Gobie brought him a congressional reprimand.

Some kind of sanction may be in Weiner's future too. If he has not brought the House into disrepute, then it is not possible. The vitriol that debate will cause will be interesting to watch.

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