Weiner Denies Sending Lewd Photo
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Much of Capitol Hill is atwitter over a lewd photo sent last week from a married congressman's Twitter account to a college coed. And House Democrat Anthony Weiner's refusal to give clear answers to some very basic questions has led to even more questions.
NPR's David Welna has the story.
WELNA: Last night's news on the ABC affiliate in Congressman Anthony Weiner's hometown of New York City led with a report focused on the 46-year-old congressman himself.
Unidentified Man #1: On camera, combatively answering reporters' questions about a lewd picture sent from his Twitter account to a 21-year-old woman.
WELNA: The woman in question was Seattle journalism student Genette Nicole Cordova. She says Weiner followed her on Twitter, and last Thursday, she received a photo from his account of a man in bulging underwear shown only from waist down.
Yesterday, CNN reporter Dana Bash and her producer Ted Barrett tried getting Weiner to confirm or deny what the young woman said.
Ms. DANA BASH (CNN): Is that true? Did you follow her on Twitter? And if so, how did you find her? What was the reason?
Representative ANTHONY WEINER (Democrat, New York): You know, I have, I think, said this a couple of ways, and I'll say it again: I am not going to permit myself to be distracted by this issue any longer.
Mr. TED BARRETT (CNN): All you have to do is say no to that question.
Rep. WEINER: You're very good at...
Mr. BARRETT: If you're not following her on Twitter, say no.
Rep. WEINER: Why don't you let me do the answers, and you do the questions.
Mr. BARRETT: As soon as you answer the question asked you, sir, we will.
WELNA: Weiner then crudely referred to CNN producer Barrett.
Rep. WEINER: You do the questions. I do the answers, and this jackass interrupts me? How about that as the new rule of the game.
WELNA: Today, Weiner sat down with MSNBC to try to explain yesterday's outburst and why he thought the news media were making too big of a deal.
Rep. WEINER: I was frustrated. I'll be honest with you. You know, I talked about this on - this was a prank that I tweeted about jokingly the moment it happened and went to bed calmly that night, thinking this was a funny, moderately funny way that someone hacked me, answered questions about it the next day, answered questions about it the day after that.
WELNA: Asked why he had not gone to the police or the FBI if he thought his account had been hacked, Weiner again played down the incident.
Rep WEINER: It was a prank. You know, it is not a national security thing. I'm not sure I want to put national federal resources into trying to figure out who posted a picture on Weiner's website of whatever. I'm not really sure it rises, no pun intended, to that level.
WELNA: Weiner insisted he had not sent out the photo, but when MSNBC reporter Luke Russert asked whether he was the man in the photo, Weiner would not say yes or no.
Rep. WEINER: You know, I can't say with certitude. My system was hacked. Pictures can be manipulated. Pictures can be dropped in and inserted.
WELNA: Weiner, who recently married a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, insists he now intends to put this episode behind him. But one expert on scandals doubts that will happen.
Mr. ERIC DEZENHALL: When you are the scandal figure, it takes you 10 times as long to realize you have a problem than everybody else.
WELNA: Eric Dezenhall heads a Washington, D.C., firm that specializes in political damage control. He says Weiner's got a lot more explaining to do.
Mr. DEZENHALL: If in fact this was just a hacking, then it's mystifying that he has handled it the way he has, with the running commentary and temper tantrums.
But what this is suggesting is that it really wasn't a hacking, that it was something else.
WELNA: What that might be could well determine whether Weiner's political star will continue to rise.
David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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