FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2011 file photo, Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., testifies before the House Rules Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. A spokesman for Weiner on Sunday, May 29, 2011 said that a lewd photograph sent from the Democrat's Twitter account is just "a distraction" perpetrated by a hacker.(AP Photo/Harry Hamburg, File) (AP)

"Weinergate": Who jumped the gun?

The unsubstantiated rumors and sensational allegations that dominated a holiday weekend

Emma Mustich
May 31, 2011 8:24PM (UTC)

While most people were busy enjoying the long holiday weekend, a mini-controversy erupted online over an obscene photograph sent to a Washington-based female student from Rep. Anthony Weiner's Twitter account. 

It was late Friday night when a Twitter user named "Patriotusa76" retweeted a message from Weiner's official account that seemed to link to a picture of a man's underwear with an erection. The tweet from Weiner's account was directed to the student. Andrew Breitbart's Big Government site quickly jumped in, with Breitbart himself taking to Twitter to demand that Weiner either confirm or deny that he'd sent the photo himself. "We have much more," Breitbart wrote.


Weiner, who has since retained a lawyer, says his account was hacked. He tweeted on Saturday that his Facebook page had been hacked too. The student to whom the image was supposedly sent issued a detailed statement to the New York Daily News, denying that she's ever met or had any involvement with Weiner. "There have never been any inappropriate exchanges between Anthony Weiner and myself," she wrote, "including the tweet/picture in question, which had apparently been deleted before it reached me."

As suspicious and murky as all of this seems, more than a few online voices were happy to jump in with some rather sweeping pronouncements:

  • From Lee Stranahan at Big Journalism: "Although I don’t think what Anthony Weiner is even accused of doing rises to the level of ‘love child while your wife has cancer,’ the #Weinergate story reminds me a lot of the post-Beverly Hills Hotel phase of the John Edwards story." (Apparently, "reporters aren't doing their jobs" if they don't investigate things like Anthony Weiner's apparent Twitter hack -- and John Edwards's secret love child.)
  • From Robert Stacy McCain at "Here is a question Breitbart posed during our phone conversation: If someone hacked Rep. Weiner’s online accounts, isn’t that a crime? Isn’t it, indeed, a national security threat? OK, so has Rep. Weiner reported this crime to the police? Is the FBI investigating? When will we have a press conference at which Rep. Weiner vows to get to bottom of this crime against him, and bring the perpetrators to justice? There is a dog there, you see. And as Sherlock Holmes might point out, that dog is not barking."
  • Among the "things that make you go hmm..." listed on Ironic Surrealism: "Did I mention Democrat Rep Weiner is a married man? ... Should Weiner resign? ... What would Ex Republican Rep Christopher Lee say? ... Will Gennette cash in with a TMZ exclusive?"
  • A bizarre ultimatum from's Neil Stevens: "[S]uch hacks these days are crimes, and are especially serious when directed at Members of Congress. If [Weiner's] Twitter account has been compromised, what else would the attackers have access to? Instead of reporting the attack to the FBI though, Weiner has made jokes, and in fact keeps joking about it. This is unreasonable behavior in the face of an actual attack, however if it weren’t hack, then to report one would probably be a crime in itself. So, Congressman Weiner, it’s up to you: Admit the truth, or file a formal criminal report with the attached penalties for filing a false report. ... Your call."
  • One of three "Be in the know" bullet points submitted to CNN by's Erick Erickson on Monday: "The internets are buzzing about Weinergate. ... [Weiner] says his Facebook account was hacked, but the pic went out via public message on twitter instead of DM. Subsequently, the Congressman's staff couldn't get any of the facts straight and the girl in Seattle shut down both her twitter and Facebook accounts. It's looking more and more like it was not a hack and would explain why the congressman has curiously been posting his TV appearances on twitter with the hashtag #inseattletime."
  • As TBogg noted on Sunday, the homepage of Big Government promoted little other than "Weinergate" all weekend. Check it now. That's still the case.


Emma Mustich

Emma Mustich is a Salon contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @emustich.

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