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Weiner’s roast hasn’t ended. Questions surround congressman’s story over lewd pic on Twitter.

Weinergate, indeed.

After Anthony Weiner, the brash congressman from Brooklyn and Queens who’s a wannabe mayor of New York, tried to joke away Friday’s posting of a lewd photo on his Twitter account, suggestions quickly surfaced that there might be more to this incident than Weiner was letting on. Is a Weiner-orchestrated coverup — a “Weinergate” — underway?

The tweeting of a picture suggesting a bulging male member cloaked in grey underwear (click here for a link that includes the photo) may prove to be less significant than the hijacking of the episode by bombastic voices from both left and right that are trying to turn it into the latest act in the war of the radicals.

• • •

Nearly all of the early coverage of the Twitter posting hewed straight to Weiner’s line — that his Facebook and Twitter accounts had been hacked and that he did not know the woman, eventually identified as a 21-year-old journalism student in Seattle named Gennette Nicole Cordova, to whom the photo was tweeted.

Weiner — who’s rarely camera- or microphone-shy — could not, however, be coaxed into making a live comment — and that gave pause to Politico, which pointed out the refusal of Weiner’s staff, which it said was “generally one of the most press friendly around,” to “comment on whether he has contacted federal authorities to report the alleged cyber-attack, which could fall under laws prohibiting cyberhacking and impersonating federal officials.”

[UPDATE 7 AM TUESDAY 5/31:

•CNN said Monday that Capitol police and the FBI told the network they were not investigating (link includes video report).

•Weiner’s spokesman said in a statement: “We’ve retained counsel to explore the proper next steps and to advise us on what civil or criminal actions should be taken. This was a prank. We are loath to treat it as more, but we are relying on professional advice.”

•And Weiner himself — in what was said to be his first interview since the photo was tweeted on Friday — told CNN: “Look, this is a prank and not a terribly creative one. I was hacked. It happens to people. You move on.”]

While some eyebrows were raised over Weiner’s quick removal of the lewd photo along with all other photos attached to his account, and over the woman’s immediate removal of her online data (something that ordinary victims of a cyberattack — which is how the press initially viewed both Weiner and Cordova — might rationally attempt), even greater skepticism was generated by the apparent reluctance of Weiner to involve law-enforcement authorities.

• • •

BigGovernment.com — Andrew Breitbart‘s conservative Website that first reported the @RepWeiner tweet (and is presumably no friend of Weiner, who is a left-wing darling and protegé of NY’s liberal Sen. Charles Schumer) — says flatly that Weiner’s camp lied at least twice about Friday night’s sequence of events:

1. Weiner’s spokesman said the congressman saw the photo right after it went up because he had just tweeted about a hockey game and was eyeing his Twitter stream. BigGovernment.com countered that its analysis of Weiner’s Twitter timeline “clearly shows Weiner’s Twitter account had been publicly silent for 3 hrs. and 24 mins. prior to the Tweeting of the inappropriate image. Consequently, there was no Tweet about a hockey game ‘just a few minutes earlier’.”

2. In an earlier tweet about an upcoming appearance on MSNBC, Weiner added the hashtag “#Thats545InSeattleIThink”, raising the question of why the congressman would single out Seattle, which happens to be the reported hometown of the woman to whom the lewd photo was addressed. [Further, while Weiner was being followed on Twitter by over 45,000 people, he was following back fewer than 200 — and the Seattle woman was reportedly one of them.]

This ginned up skepticism on right-wing sites like those operated by Breitbart (which may not require much to detect an alleged left-wing conspiracy), and led to Sunday’s NY Post front page headline, “WEINER ROAST; Grilled over impostor’s lewd photo.” (The front page baseball lead added a cute touch: “Sweepless in Seattle.”) The “WEINER ON THE GRILL” art that tops this Coney Media post led the NY Post’s homepage this morning.

The Post report questions the veracity of assertions, by both the Weiner camp and the tweeted woman, that the woman had no connection to the congressman beyond the fact that she followed him on Twitter. [That the woman choose to speak on Sunday with the Post’s rival, the NY Daily News, didn’t score her any points in the Post account.]

Meanwhile, Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com had the Weiner story filling 19 of 20 front-page slots this morning (the 20th promoted Breitbart’s new book), as seen in the following screen-grab:

There’s plenty more being said among those who believe that Weiner’s involved in some nastiness. RedState.com reminds that hacking is a crime and that hacking is

especially serious when directed at Members of Congress. If his 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 [a] hack, then to report one would probably be a crime in itself.

Get the drift?

Joseph Curl of the Washington Times posted a snarky report oozing with sarcasm:

It’s really not all that bad: Just keep a constant eye on your Twitter feed, and if someone does hack into it and fires out a lewd picture, you’ll probably be able to wrest control of your account back from the intruder and delete the photo within, oh, say, four minutes.

But wait: Say you’re not able to police your own Twitter feed 24/7. And say someone does get away with hacking your account (as is clearly the case in WeinerGate). Well then, certainly the authorities ought to check into the whole mess, track down that vile hacker and punish him (or her) to the fullest extent of the law. … Be thankful that all this has happened to a federal lawmaker, who will see to it that the FBI finds this hacker. And then the World Wide Web will once again be safe for all of us. And Weiner-free.

Why won’t Weiner call for such a probe, his critics ask. What is he hiding?

Breitbart’s Lee Stranahan compares Weiner’s Friday night adventure with the night John Edwards got caught leaving a woman’s hotel room in Beverly Hills. Stranahan asks rhetorically: “Would your spouse buy it?” [No.] “Then neither should the average reporter.”

Concludes Mediaite: “It seems the two most likely outcomes are either that Weiner’s account was hacked … or that he did, in fact, send the embarrassing photo via Twitter, and now is engaged in a clumsy bit of cover up.

• • •

Over on the left, there are those who view Weinergate as an event manufactured by Breitbart and possibly other right-wing conspirators known and unknown. The DailyKos led the charge in Weiner’s defense, topping its Sunday morning post:

Breitbart to use SEX SMEAR on Rep. Anthony Weiner … “Easily Debunked FRAUD”=EPIC FAIL

The post — bylined MinistryOfTruth — began: “On BigGovernment.com, known serial liar and corporate hack Andrew Breitbart and friends have cooked up another Shirley Sherrod style attack on a Democrat.” MinistryOfTruth calls Breitbart  “a sleazy fucking liar … a sleazy piece of shit” whose “sole purpose of existence is to get rich by smearing the enemies of the Republican party and the special interests whom they serve. If Andrew Breitbart told me that it was raining outside I would open a window to verify it for myself.”

Then came DailyKos’ Sunday afternoon post by Stef:

Breitbart’s #TwitterHoax — How it Went Down

And on Monday morning, DailyKos poster Fromer was attacking the NY Times for having called attention to the Weiner controversy by simply reporting that there was … a controversy:

NYT Epic Fail — pulling a boner re: Re Weiner

“Short and not-so-sweet: the NYT is playing the false-equivalence game, again, this time on the Rep. Weiner hacking story,” Fromer began. “Fuck you NYT and Fuck you MARIA NEWMAN.” (Newman wrote the Times story.)

Fromer raged over what the Times story did not cover:

Not one word on Breitbart’s lying sack of shit past. Not one word about his infamous role in the Shirley Sherrod lynching.

Nope. The fuckheads at the NYT just “report” that “Neither Mr. Weiner, an outspoken defender of liberal positions, nor Mr. Breitbart returned messages requesting comment on Sunday night.”

FUCK YOU you pathetic excuses for “journalists.” You give more column space to the lying shit-stirrers, and present all of Rep Weiner’s facts as “he says” or “he claims.”

What’s your real agenda NYT?  Reporting the news, or perpetuating the psuedo-conflicts of the rightwing so no one notices the economic warfare being waged on 99 Percent of the country. Warfare you DON’T report on.

FUCK YOU.

• • •

Everyone’s so testy these days!

Which brings us to this interesting footnote:

On DailyKos, MinistryOfTruth said that “nothing would make me happier than debunking [Breitbart’s] too often falsified claims before they get onto the Drudge Report and into the Villagers heads.” Three days in, the conservative DrudgeReport, a potent force in driving the news agendas of both mainstream media and the blogosphere , has yet to add its high-octane fuel to the fire. We wonder why.

• • •

Conclusion

Whatever the backstory — did Weiner have a hand in the lewd post and/or a possibly inappropriate connection with the woman; did right-wing conspirators engineer the episode to embarrass a strong advocate of liberal causes; was the person or people behind this incident determined to embarrass the woman or Weiner or both (for reasons known or unknown to them); was this — as initially portrayed by Weiner’s camp — a case of a hacker breaking into the congressman’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and the congressman merely trying to maintain his dignity through the type of incident that is, unfortunately, less than unique these days; or was it something else.

I’m putting my chips in front of those calling it a matter for law enforcement.

If Weiner’s hand was in this, then he should call one of his famous press conferences and apologize and attempt to move on.

If not, Weiner should meet quickly with appropriate authorities and do everything he can to facilitate their access to online evidence.

Hacking someone’s online identity is a crime; hacking a federal official — a congressman — is not, in the end, a laughing matter.

• • •

Addendum

It’s hardly news that Weiner is, as the Times put it, “one of the most prolific users of social media among politicians” (the NY Post called him “the tech-savvy congressman … a voracious user of Twitter,” in its first story on Friday’s incident). That first NY Post report accepted Weiner’s position hook, line and sinker, offering that Weiner

got a message about a week ago from Facebook alerting him that his password might have been tampered with, [spokesman Dave] Arnold said. But the warning was ignored, granting the hacker carte blanche to hijack Weiner’s online identity.

If you were told by Facebook that your account was tampered with, I’d guess you’d do … nothing?

—Ed Weintrob

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