Rep. Anthony Weiner’s big political problems in the controversy swirling around his sending Twitters to women have just become worse with the news that he has confirmed that he had sent Tweets to a 17 year old girl. Even if the content was harmless the optics of this within the context of the other inappropriate Tweets are terrible:
Representative Anthony D. Weiner said on Friday that he exchanged at least five private messages on Twitter this spring with a 17-year-old Delaware girl who became an admirer of his after hearing him speak during a high school trip to Washington.
Mr. Weiner’s spokeswoman, Risa Heller, did not provide copies of the messages, but said they were not inappropriate.
“According to Congressman Weiner, his communications with this person were neither explicit nor indecent,” Ms. Heller said.
Once again, it’ll be the context.
If Rep. Mr Y had Tweeted a high school junior it would be taken one way. But Weiner’s Tweets to females now take on a whole different meaning and will be scrutinized which adult Tweets to minors might in any case.
UPDATE: The damage of this has now been reduced due to the response of the teen’s Mother. The New York Post reports:
The girl’s mother, whose name is being withheld, told The Post Wednesday that Weiner sent nothing obscene — and sent only two brief messages to her daughter about seeing him during an April school trip to the Capitol.
The teen, who idolized Weiner, was “disappointed” in him after his confession.
The mom said she pointedly questioned her daughter about whether Weiner sent her anything obscene, and the girl swore it was all G-rated.
“I guess because he knew she was in high school,” the mom said, though she added it was weird that Weiner would spend any time communicating directly with her daughter.
The mom did say her daughter wrote in one message, “I’m in love with you,” but explained it away with, “She’s 17.”
“None of us will be getting our 15 minutes of fame because of this nonsense,” the mom said. “Representative Weiner never tweeted her anything inappropriate . . . That is the answer, honestly.”
This means that unless something new emerges mostly conservative bloggers will be the ones pointing to this as a new legal smoking gun. Back to the earlier part of this post:
A member of the girl’s family who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her identity characterized the messages as “harmless” but expressed concern that Mr. Weiner had communicated privately with the teenager, a high school junior.
The family was aware that there had been exchanges between Mr. Weiner and the girl but assumed that all of their conversations had taken place on a public Twitter feed.
…..The family member said: “I am angry. This is surreal and unbelievable. It is absolutely crazy. We are just regular people who go to baseball games and basketball games, as ordinary and plain as can be.”
In the past few days, the girl and her family have become subjects of intense interest in the news media. On Friday, the local police arrived at their home and asked the girl and her mother to bring the girl’s phone and computer to the police station so they could be checked to make sure no crime had occurred.
The family member said the family complied, and did not expect any further action to be taken.
The girl’s contact with Mr. Weiner started in early April, after her trip to Washington. The congressman spoke to her school group, and she began following him on Twitter, posting a public message saying how much she liked his speech.
Two days later, Mr. Weiner began following her on Twitter. On her profile, she says she aspires to be president. In a private message he sent to her, he said: “How hip am I talking to a future president.”
Delighted that she had heard directly from a congressman, the girl wrote a public post on her Twitter feed: “talking to Rep Weiner from New York right now! is my life real?”
Again, it’s the context. And — as all the world now knows — a conservative group monitoring Weiner’s Tweets had noticed Weiner sent a Tweet to a porn star.
So they warned him:
When members of the group saw the girl’s post, suggesting she was engaging in a private conversation with Mr. Weiner, they alerted the congressman that they were watching him. “@RepWeiner new pal is a high school girl. First porn actresses now little girls. Weird.”
But the warning did no good.
In this, Weiner resembles former Senator Gary Hart who had defied the news media to following him around to see whether or not he was carrying on an affair.
And we all know how that ended. Even if Weiner survives for now, in the end his political career will end up the same way.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.