BY JOHN FUND – A week ago, Rep. Anthony Weiner topped the polls as a possible successor to Mike Bloomberg in the 2013 election for New York City mayor. He appeared almost certain to run, and his campaign account was bulging with $5.1 million in cash. Now, Mr. Weiner has become a poster child for how not to handle a political crisis as his ever-shifting story of how a lewd photo happened to be sent from his Twitter account to a female college student keeps unraveling.
When the story broke last Friday on BigGovernment.com, Mr. Weiner was angry and indignant about the incident, claiming he had been the victim of a hacker. But on Tuesday he refused to answer basic questions about the incident during a combative news conference, calling a CNN reporter a “jackass” and insisting that he couldn’t say with “certitude” that the photo that was sent wasn’t of him.
“I was the victim of a prank here,” he said in downplaying the incident. He said he had contacted a law firm to “make sure it doesn’t happen again.” But he has declined to contact the FBI or the U.S. Capitol Police so that they can conduct their own investigation. Mr. Weiner claims he is “not sure I want to put national, federal resources into trying to figure out who posted a picture on Weiner’s website.”
His decision is strange because the FBI has crackerjack computer experts who may be able to identify the hacker. Last year, they identified a 23-year-old Frenchman who had hacked the Twitter accounts of President Obama and Hollywood celebrities. The Capitol Police are hot on the trail of whoever broke into Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s e-mail and sent out a notice that he had died. “If Weiner’s e-mail was hacked, that’s a felony,” says private investigator Bo Deidl. “If I were him, I would want to find out who did it.”
Legal analysts say one possible explanation for Mr. Weiner’s reluctance to approach authorities may be that it is also a felony to make false claims to federal investigators. Martha Stewart learned that the hard way after she was convicted of lying to FBI agents.
Many of Mr. Weiner’s fellow New York Democrats are aghast at the way he has handled the whole matter. “For the time being it casts pallor on whether he can be a reasonable candidate for mayor,” Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf told CBS News. “Too many questions. Ultimately, people will forgive Twitter but they won’t forgive not coming clean.”