Shop Talk: Congressman Weiner's Twitter Scandal

The guys in the Barbershop take on the recent scandal around Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). A promiscuous photo was sent from the Congressman's twitter account. While he says he didn't send it, he is not denying the photo is of him. Also, the guys talk about two-time presidential candidate John Edwards's indictment by a federal grand jury of violating federal election law for allegedly using nearly one million dollars in campaign donations to conceal an extramarital affair. Author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, and Sports Illustrated reporter Pablo Torre weigh in.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host: And now it's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop, where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in their chairs for a shape-up this week are author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, columnist Ruben Navarrette, and Sports Illustrated reporter Pablo Torre. Take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey, fellas, welcome to the shop. How are we doin'?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Hey, hey, hey.

RUBEN NAVARRETTE: What's up? What's up?

PABLO TORRE: How are you doing, man? Hey.

IZRAEL: Well, as it happens...

TORRE: What's on your mind?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Men behaving badly.

IZRAEL: Oh, man.

TORRE: Let me just - Jimi, let me just say, this is one of those shows that we definitely need Michel here.

IZRAEL: OK. You interrupt me. Go ahead.

TORRE: We definitely need Michel here.

IFTIKHAR: Yes.

TORRE: This is one of those shows we cannot do without Michel.

IFTIKHAR: Yes.

IZRAEL: Yeah. I absolutely know what

IFTIKHAR: Most definitely.

MARTIN: Because?

IZRAEL: You're right about that. You're 100 percent right about that.

MARTIN: To keep this on the tasteful level, is that it?

TORRE: Yeah. Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: OK.

TORRE: More or less.

MARTIN: I will try.

IZRAEL: All right, gentlemen, behave. Let's start with the indictment of the one-time Democratic nominee for vice president, John Edwards, by a federal grand jury in North Carolina now. Edwards was charged with six counts stemming from an investigation to whether or not he used money from supporters to cover up an affair. Holy mackerel.

Fellas, you know what? He's a former senator, a voice for the poor, a presidential candidate, and the nominee for VP on John Kerry's ticket in 2004. Sadly, he may best be known for his cheating on his now-late wife, Elizabeth, as she struggled with cancer.

Now, you know, all this guy needs to do is shave his head bald and get a monocle ,and change his last name to Evil. You know what I mean?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Yeah. You need the white cat.

I am so done.

NAVARRETTE: He's not...

IZRAEL: I am so done with John Edwards. Ruben, come and get some of this, man.

NAVARRETTE: He's not going to get any love from anybody. Here's the problem with John Edwards. You know, those people who have watched him over time have to admit that for all his skills - and he has ample skills; he made a lot of money as a trial lawyer, he's a smart guy, he's a talented guy - he is in love with himself. He has always been in love with himself. He's a narcissist.

And when you see him, it made sense, as some would say, that the person he had this affair with was a person who was his videographer - you know, who had this camera and the whole thing. And I think that for those people who have had interactions with Edwards, they admit that he has always had this failing. And he's not the only one. There's plenty of politicians who fall under this category. But it's a really sad way to end the story.

That - here you have a guy who's indicted now, who - before a federal jury. And he's already an incredibly unsympathetic character. He's burned all his bridges. The people, I think, out there who feel most betrayed, frankly, are Democrats - who were on his side, who helped him run for president, who he kept this from.

And at the end, it was always, always, always about John. It wasn't about Elizabeth; it wasn't about the kids; it wasn't about the family; it wasn't about his supporters; it wasn't about the Democratic Party; it wasn't about the poor in New Orleans. It was always about John.

IZRAEL: Yeah. I mean...

TORRE: Yeah. And this is Pablo.

IZRAEL: Go ahead, Pablo.

TORRE: I was just going to say - I mean, like the one thing this whole saga needed was a paper trail, all right. I mean, that was, I mean, it kind of heeds the lesson of Richard Nixon in that the cover-up is, even when the crime is so ridiculous - as it already is - it tends to be even worse. I mean - and this is just the latest example of that, with this indictment. You know, do whatever you want to do, whatever, but you know, copping to your mistake up front and not trying to hide it, it seems like that principle has always held true through all these scandals we've been experiencing, from John Edwards and on and on.

NAVARRETTE: Right.

IZRAEL: Yeah. Yeah. I mean he was a good politician - just a horrible, horrible human being. A-Train.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah. I mean, you know, this federal indictment charges him with six counts, including four counts of illegal campaign contributions, one count of conspiracy, and one count of making false statements. And you know, again, when it comes to federal prosecutions, you know, bringing up an indictment is up to federal prosecutors. And like Ruben said in the beginning, since nobody is going to lose any sleep over John Edwards getting indicted, I was not surprised at all when this federal indictment came down.

MARTIN: You know, the only thing I would add to this is that - of course, we do have to remember that he's innocent until proven guilty...

IFTIKHAR: Right.

MARTIN: ...in a court of law, and that process still needs to unfold. I think there are two things that are tragic to me about this - is, one is, you know, he's a very wealthy man himself, so there was no need for him to funnel payments to his inamorata under a campaign...

NAVARRETTE: Right. Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: That's right.

MARTIN: ...you know, under a campaign account. I mean, so that piece of it is disturbing. And you can understand why someone would do that - because you're trying to hide, you know, what you're doing - you know, payments to a mistress. You're trying to hide that. We get that. But to kind of abuse the campaign process, it's just - it's another thing that makes people feel that the whole thing is dirty, and that these people are really running for office not for the purpose of actually accomplishing something, but really, as Ruben was pointing out, as kind of this extension of this narcissistic impulse.

But I just want to take the other side of that piece. And I was thinking about something that I don't remember who told - said this to me, that if you're drowning and somebody throws you a rope, do you really care why they're throwing it to you? And one of the tragedies of this for me is that John Edwards had some very important and interesting policy ideas. He was one of the very few people who really articulated ending poverty and attacking poverty as a goal, as an important priority and a goal. We very rarely hear that in American politics...

NAVARRETTE: Yeah.

MARTIN: Among candidates who actually might win. Because typically, what happens is everybody talks about the middle class. And that's fine because that's what most people are, you know. But to articulate, to say we are a really wealthy country, we can do better by our poor people. And to have somebody so flawed...

NAVARRETTE: Here's the problem with that, though.

MARTIN: ...articulate...

NAVARRETTE: Yeah.

MARTIN: It just makes you - it makes me sad.

NAVARRETTE: This is Ruben. Here's...

MARTIN: And do we really care whether the guy is a great guy if he gets an important job done? I mean, that's the question I think we all have to ask ourselves at some point.

NAVARRETTE: We do. We do care.

MARTIN: Go ahead.

NAVARRETTE: And the reason we care is because it goes to sincerity of the cause. It goes to whether or not he really believed it, whether or not he was just trying to manipulate somebody. Everything else in John Edwards' life was a lie. We somehow have to believe that when he took the podium in New Orleans and talked about poor folks, he was speaking from the heart, even though he lied about everything else. If you are misled by Edwards for policy, and you believe what he's saying, it's just words. It's nothing more than words. Ideas are nothing if people don't believe it. And so...

MARTIN: OK, but...

NAVARRETTE: ...that is, ultimately, the problem.

MARTIN: ...does it really matter if somebody is a skilled politician, if you're - I guess that's the question we're debating here, and I'm not claiming to know the answer but...

Well, it's a great - I mean, that's a Lance Armstrong question too, right?

MARTIN: Right.

TORRE: I mean, that's the deal with him - is that he's this guy who...

NAVARRETTE: Right.

TORRE: ...you know, is single-handedly, it seems, the greatest force we've seen in recent years in terms of fighting cancer, but his entire premise is built upon this alleged and increasingly convincingly - convincingly false, pile of lies.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to our weekly Barbershop segment. We are joined by Author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, and Sports Illustrated reporter Pablo Torre. Back to you, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. All right, fellas. I can say with absolute certitude...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: That's not you in the picture.

IZRAEL: ...that New York congressman Anthony Weiner has had a tough, tough week. A below-the-belt photo of a man was sent from Weiner's Twitter account to a female college student. D'oh, I hate when that happens.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Weiner denies sending the photo - denied sending the photo, excuse me and said he was a victim of hackers.

IFTIKHAR: Man. Those hackers.

IZRAEL: But things got bizarre when he gave a slew of interviews...

NAVARRETTE: Right on.

IZRAEL: ...on Wednesday and said that while he didn't send the photo, he can't say for sure whether that's a picture of him or not.

MARTIN: And this is where I jump in to say, I'm not sure this conversation is appropriate for all listeners. I don't know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: But it's about what the picture contained...

NAVARRETTE: This is the warning label, folks.

MARTIN: This is the warning label moment where I'll put it as CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer put it, which is: Do you know whether those are your underpants or not? That kind of captures it.

TORRE: Yeah.

MARTIN: And I'll just give you a little bit of that interview. Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF CNN BROADCAST)

WOLF BLITZER: You would know if this is your underpants, for example?

REPRESENTATIVE ANTHONY WEINER: The question is - I appreciate you continuing to flash that at me. Certainly doesn't look familiar to me, but I don't want to say with certitude to you something that I don't know to be the certain truth. Just about every week, people have spam and hacking that goes on. It seems like I was a victim of that. And I don't consider it that big a federal offense, but people want to pay attention to it, and I guess I get it. When you're named Weiner it, kind of goes with the territory.

BLITZER: Have you ever taken a picture like this of yourself?

WEINER: I can tell you this, that there are - I have photographs. I don't know what photographs are out there in the world of me. I don't know what things have been manipulated and doctored.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Oh, the...

MARTIN: And that's when you got to go, hold up.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah. I mean...

NAVARRETTE: Anthony, stop talking. Anthony, stop talking.

IFTIKHAR: You know, like...

IZRAEL: Right. Right. Where's the publicist with the taser when you need him?

NAVARRETTE: Shovel. Stop digging.

IFTIKHAR: Listen.

TORRE: Seriously.

MARTIN: Arsalan?

IFTIKHAR: Jimi, this is Arsalan.

IZRAEL: A-Train.

IFTIKHAR: This is Arsalan. You know, if I were Anthony Weiner and I had a junk shot sent to me, I'd be like number one, that's not my junk. I know my junk. Me and my junk is like this, son. You know...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: We hang out.

IFTIKHAR: Anything short of that, it's like OK, we believe that you didn't send it. But we also now know that this is probably your junk shot, you know, based on your answers. You know, what's interesting in this whole debate is, you know, the role of Andrew Breitbart - you know, somebody who, you know, defamed Shirley Sherrod during that whole affair, the whole ACORN fiasco. You know, Breitbart, and this mysterious guy named Dan Wolf, who has the Twitter handle @Patriots1976, and seems to be the only person to have seen this.

NAVARRETTE: Breitbart took the picture?

IFTIKHAR: Oh, no, no. I'm not...

IZRAEL: What is this, Zapruder? What...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: This is getting worse.

IFTIKHAR: It's...

MARTIN: Well, the problem - I think what he's saying is, who do you like on this? Do you like team - I can't believe I'm staying this - Team Weiner or Team Breitbart?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Because Breitbart's reputation for manipulative and deceptive...

NAVARRETTE: Forget Breitbart. Breitbart is irrelevant to this.

IFTIKHAR: No. No.

MARTIN: Is he? But he's the one who disseminated the picture.

NAVARRETTE: No. You heard the tape. Here we have a situation - again, a grown man, theoretically, Anthony Weiner, is asked a question by Wolf Blitzer - two questions: Is that your underwear? You saw the answer. It was all over the place, right? He was dodging the question.

IFTIKHAR: Right.

NAVARRETTE: Then, have you ever taken a picture like this? He dodges it again. In another interview, with Luke Russert, he likewise said, I can't tell you within a moral certitude that that's, you know, me or not me. And then another interview I saw, with Jonathan Carl, same thing - over and over again. So here's the thing: Unless Andrew Breitbart has the power to crawl into Weiner's brain, take over his mouth...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: ...his ability to mangle these questions, at some point we've got to do what we did with Edwards 10 minutes ago - tell the brother to step up and take responsibility. This is not anybody else's fault. This is not Andrew Breitbart's fault. This is Andrew Weiner excuse me, Andrew Weiner - Anthony Weiner blowing this, and making maybe a molehill into a mountain by virtue of the fact that he is not able to communicate his way out of this mess.

TORRE: Yeah. And this is...

IFTIKHAR: I...

IZRAEL: I bet his wife knows.

TORRE: Well, yeah...

IZRAEL: How about that? Go ahead, Pablo.

TORRE: I was going say, it's just so, you know, perfect and ironic because you ask me a month ago who would be one of the least likely politicians to be caught in this, I would've picked, probably, Anthony Weiner. I mean, he's a tenacious, brilliant, you know, guy.

NAVARRETTE: No, he's a talented guy.

TORRE: Really. I mean, you watch him in Congress in these debates, he's wonderful. He's obviously online savvy. I honestly would've picked him to be the last guy to have any DNA shared with Brett Favre. And yet here we are. And that's just the way politics goes.

MARTIN: Well, that's obviously why there's an interest in promoting this story, isn't there, because he's an effective advocate for his side? I mean, you don't see...

TORRE: Of course. Of course. But I mean, gee...

NAVARRETTE: Women have known this for a while.

TORRE: ...at those interviews, it's like, you know, you cannot have certitude about the existence of God and whether there is life on other planets.

NAVARRETTE: Right.

TORRE: But whether or not that is a picture of your crotch is one of those things where you should have certitude about.

IZRAEL: It's not like there's a picture of Bigfoot floating around.

MARTIN: You know, you all have persuaded me on this point. I have to say I...

TORRE: Yeah. No, I mean, I...

MARTIN: You all seem very clear and I - you've persuaded me that you would definitely know if it were...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: Our favorite excuse - remember when Newt Gingrich got called on this, and they asked Gingrich about his affairs? And he said, well, I was working a lot back then; I was under a lot of pressure, right? Every single man who has ever behaved badly has an excuse for it.

IFTIKHAR: Mm-hmm.

NAVARRETTE: The first test should be, would your wife buy it? Those of us who are married, go home and tell your wife you're not sure if that's your junk, OK?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: See how that flies. See how that works, OK?

IZRAEL: Whoa.

NAVARRETTE: Not me, brother. Not me, baby.

IZRAEL: Yeah that's, no, not me. Not me.

IFTIKHAR: Me and my junk is like this, son.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: OK.

IZRAEL: Ladies and gentlemen, now you know.

MARTIN: Now you know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Now you know. Word to those about to get married. Don't take it home.

NAVARRETTE: Yeah. Don't go there. Don't. Don't.

MARTIN: Don't go there.

NAVARRETTE: Right.

MARTIN: All right. Look, before we let you go, we got to ask about last night's NBA finals game two, the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat.

IFTIKHAR: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: All right; there it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF BROADCAST)

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Seven to shoot. Nowitzki drives for the big layup, banks it in. With 3.6 remaining. Miami, out of time-outs. Trailing by two. James back to Wade. Wade puts it up for the win. Off the mark, and Dallas has tied the finals with one of the most incredible comebacks in NBA finals history.

MARTIN: All right. So which of you...

IFTIKHAR: Cold-blooded.

MARTIN: ...is psyched, and who's crying in their pillow?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: Listen, I...

NAVARRETTE: I like it.

IFTIKHAR: As I've said on Facebook and Twitter, I think that everybody outside of the city of Miami is a Dallas Mavericks fan for the next three weeks.

TORRE: Yeah.

IFTIKHAR: I mean....

MARTIN: No. No, no.

IFTIKHAR: You know, what...

MARTIN: Not me. No, I mean, you neither, Jimi? No....

IFTIKHAR: Listen, I think...

IZRAEL: Nah, nah, nah, nah.

TORRE: Jimi, you're in Cleveland. Come on.

IFTIKHAR: I didn't know...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: First of all...

MARTIN: Go ahead. Arsalan, quick.

IZRAEL: Go ahead, A-Train.

IFTIKHAR: First of all, I did not know that Dirk Nowitzki was a Jedi name. Down 15 points with seven minutes left, in Miami. I mean, it was just - and you have D. Wade and Lebron doing the electric slide, you know, with seven minutes left. It was phenomenal.

MARTIN: Dallas just did to Miami what Miami just did to Chicago, yo.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah. I...

MARTIN: He's got amnesia about that. Go ahead, Pablo.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

TORRE: I heard people yelling out of their windows in my neighborhood in New York last night, at this game. I mean, it just seemed like every shot by the Mavericks was willed by the collective hatred for Lebron James and Dwayne Wade, by the rest of the country. And this is going to be a great series. I mean, anybody who had it locked up after game one or - God forbid - six minutes to go in game two is going to be in for something that's, you know, we don't really see in sports, which is a country united against one team.

MARTIN: Not us. Jimi, step up, man. We're not. No. Excuse us.

IZRAEL: Watch out because I mean...

MARTIN: Thank you.

IZRAEL: ...anybody that's ever seen Lebron play knows that he thrives under pressure, so just be careful.

TORRE: He's a force of nature.

IZRAEL: Oh, yeah. Right.

TORRE: Nobody will deny that.

MARTIN: Why are you all such haters? That's why - Ruben and Arsalan, why are you all such haters? Why are you hating? Why are you hating? Ruben?

IFTIKHAR: It's called the decision on ESPN, that one-hour-long fiasco. That is why...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

TORRE: The hatred is really low in this case.

IFTIKHAR: I loved Lebron. I loved him. But the way that the left was whack.

MARTIN: Ruben, why do you hate him?

NAVARRETTE: Well, I lived in Dallas for five years. I'm going to tell you right now...

MARTIN: Oh, OK. Excuse us.

NAVARRETTE: They will - I hate to say this, but there's always this tendency that they will clutch defeat from the jaws of victory.

IFTIKHAR: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

NAVARRETTE: You know, they're the Chicago Cubs of North Texas in basketball.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

TORRE: That's a T-shirt, I believe.

NAVARRETTE: They win games they're not supposed to win, and then they lose when they're supposed to win.

IZRAEL: Yeah.

NAVARRETTE: But I think...

MARTIN: Somebody's got to give him fan lessons. That's not how you deal with your team.

NAVARRETTE: I think, yeah. I think that they are in it to win it, dog. I think they're in it to win it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: We'll see.

MARTIN: All right. Pablo, before we let you go - Shaq, stepping down.

TORRE: Yeah. Yeah.

MARTIN: Quickly. Thirty seconds. What do you guys say about Shaquille?

TORRE: A guy who made Shaq Fu, a guy who made Shaq Diesel his rap album, still managed to be beloved...

IFTIKHAR: Platinum.

TORRE: ...by generations of people. I just hope he becomes a sheriff, gets a reality show, and he doesn't evaporate from our lives.

MARTIN: You mean, a reality show to compete with the one his wife is executive-producing?

TORRE: That's exactly. That's right. That's right.

MARTIN: That's where Jimi should go, d'oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist and author of the book "The Denzel Principle." He joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Pablo Torre is a reporter for Sports Illustrated. He joined us from our NPR studios in New York. Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist who writes for the Washington Post Writers Group and CNN.com. He was with us from San Diego. And Arsalan Iftikhar is civil rights attorney, founder of the muslimguy.com, and managing editor of the Crescent Post. He was here with us in our D.C. studio. Thank you all so much.

IFTIKHAR: Peace.

TORRE: Thank you.

NAVARRETTE: Thank you.

IZRAEL: Yup-yup.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more on Monday.

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