The evidence is clear: Weiner sent the tweet

How an analysis of the congressman's behavior caused me to change my mind

June 03, 2011|By Luke Broadwater

Let me start this post by saying something that has now become quite clear: U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner's (D-N.Y.) Twitter account was not hacked. He sent the image of his penis to a Twitter follower and has now engaged in a convoluted attempt to cover it up. 

I make this argument not because I wish any ill on the congressman. (I personally don't think politicians should be judged on their sex lives, but solely on their performance in office.) Instead, I write this because it's the only conclusion I believe a reasonable person can reach when watching his behavior. 

Further preface: I initially believed Weiner. It made sense to me that some right-winger hacked his account in a mean-spirited attack to discredit him personally. Knowing nothing more, I accepted this explanation at face value. But then I heard Weiner start to explain himself and everything changed. The more he talked, the more it became obvious that not only is the photo of him, but he sent it. 

Once you accept this premise, all of his behavior suddenly makes sense. After consulting with several communications experts for this post, my belief is now reinforced. 

"I think this is one of the worst public relations strategies regarding an embarrassing event for a public figure that I have witnessed," writes Towson University communications professor Richard Vatz in an email about Weiner's press interactions. "It is obviously a picture of him, taken for a possible variety of reasons, but his inelegant warding off of the inquiries should have instead been a refusal to engage the issue. That would not have solved the problem, but it would have lessened the humiliating spectacle which exacerbates his problems." 

Without further ado, here's the evidence from Weiner's behavior that I believe makes the case clear. 

1) Weiner's comments that he cannot say "with certitude" that the photo is of him. 

This was the admission that first started to give him away. The very fact that he has penis photos of himself on his computer (or elsewhere on the Internet) that can be "manipulated," as he suggests, proves he has history of engaging in this kind of behavior. This was the first truly bad decision Weiner made in covering this up. By trying to weave into his lie a "half truth," the lie started to unravel. 

2) His admission that he does all his own tweeting.  

This eliminated his staff from the incident. The comment narrowed down the potential suspects to himself and some mysterious, unknown hacker -- who appears less and less likely to actually exist. 

3) His downplaying of the incident. 

Since the alleged hack, Weiner has consistently tried to play down the tweet. He's called it a "prank," said someone was "punking" him and referred to it generally as a joke. He is seeking to minimize the incident, because he, indeed, was the cause of the incident. If he was the victim of a cyberspace attack by a right-wing agent, he would be using the incident to embarrass his Republican opponents, not downplaying it. 

"He’s hiding information," says Joe Navarro, adjunct professor at Saint Leo University in Florida who studies body language. "I think he has knowledge of something nefarious, but we don’t know what that is. He is definitely hiding information and unwilling to reveal the full truth. ... He’s chosen a path and unfortunately he thinks he can overcome it by continuing to talk about it, but it’s not getting any better. It’s worse. He is concealing information and he's concealing it with intent."   


4) His refusal to ask for an investigation. 

Weiner says he doesn't want the police to investigate and tries to make the case that it would be a waste of federal dollars. (Let's not forget that police are already paid salaries to investigate crimes.) The reason that makes the most sense why he doesn't want the police to investigate is because he's afraid they would find out that he sent the tweet and that his hacker claim is a lie. (Now, I suppose it's possible he's hiding something else entirely and doesn't want an investigation for those reasons, but that's not a promising prospect either.) If he was truly hacked and publicly humiliated by a political opponent, he would want that person brought to justice. The fact that he doesn't is very telling. 

5) His strange, angry obfuscating comments to the press. 

Weiner has called a reporter a "jackass," refused to answer simple, basic questions and given strange, ambiguous answers to a number of questions to both hostile and friendly interviewers. 

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