Memo to Anthony Weiner: Refusing to answer main question in "Weinergate" media tour doesn't help
As the punditry and interviews pile up around an odd photo circulated online that may or may not be Democratic New York Rep. Anthony Weiner in his underwear, mainstream journalists mostly want to know one thing.
Is it a hoax?
Unfortunately, for Weiner, satisfying that query actually requires two answers. Reporters want to know if he sent the photo to a twentysomething admirer and whether the image is actually a picture of the legislator in an, um, excited state.
In a round of media interviews today, the Democratic congressman took a story which has already raged on too long -- sparked by bloggers over the weekend -- and extended its life by refusing to do the two things that would shut down this scandal cold.
Weiner has said his Twitter account was hacked, but he won't say if the photo is an image of him. And he can't really explain why he isn't siccing the police on hackers who presumably accessed his official page.
His answers have improved over the life of this scandal. Yesterday, the Democrat called a CNN producer a "jackass" for refusing to let him dodge the questions listed above during a press conference. Earlier this afternoon, he told MSNBC's Luke Russert he couldn't say for sure if it was him in the photo and by late in the day, he was telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer the photo "doesn't look familiar" to him and he isn't calling police over "spam."
But journalists -- and even some Weiner fans, judging by my social media traffic -- are not buying his explanations. A hacker faking electronic messages from a Congressman sounds like exactly the sort of crime police should be investigating. And most of us can recall whether anyone has taken a picture of us in our underwear which could land on the Internet.
My bet is that there's some other, different controversy that could come out if Weiner allows an unfettered investigation into this, likely manufactured one. But as any embattled politician will tell you, it's not the scandal which can kill your career; it's the cover up.
And see the history of Congressman Gary Condit for a lesson on what can happen when you act like a jerk at the start of a scandal, even if you may be innocent.
Here's hoping Democratic Rep. Weiner sees fits to adequately answer the two questions before we waste too much more time on this (or before Blitzer repeats his odd, post-interview jab at Weiner, where he told the Congressman he should have sat down with journalists one-on-one sooner in the crisis).
Blog has been updated to add Rep. Weiner's party affiliation.