Police showed up Friday afternoon at the home of a 17-year-old girl in Delaware who had been among Rep. Anthony Weiner’s online fans. Within 24 hours, three top Democrats issued calls for Weiner’s resignation.
The timing was merely a coincidence, some Democratic sources told reporters. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel had actually been planning to release their statements anyway. Their “coordinated effort was [already] in the works,” one insider told Russell Berman of the Hill, adding that the statements “were released on Saturday to get ahead of the Sunday shows and the return of lawmakers on Monday.” So while the Brooklyn congressman was announcing that he would take a leave of absence to seek “professional treatment” for whatever compulsions led to the scandal that has become known as WeinerGate, his Democratic colleagues were chiefly concerned about working the news cycle to their advantage.
Democrats appear increasingly desperate to put political distance between their party and the disastrously disgraced Weiner, because they have no idea what further revelations await. Pelosi and other Democrats have no control over the relentless drip, drip, drip in this scandal that began more than two weeks ago when Weiner accidently published on his Twitter account a lewd photo of his crotch. He had intended to send that photo privately to a 21-year-old college student from Seattle, but by a simple error — “possibly the worst typo in the history of politics,” as conservative blogger Ace of Spades says — Weiner’s online modus operandi was exposed to the more than 40,000 people following his Twitter feed. Among those followers were several of Weiner’s political enemies who for weeks had tried to call attention to the 46-year-old married congressman’s pattern of Internet interactions with women, ranging from a porn star to the teenager whose communications with Weiner brought her to the attention of Delaware police on Friday.
Weiner said there was nothing “indecent” or “explicit” in his private exchanges with the Delaware girl, and police quickly issued a statement saying they found no evidence warranting criminal charges, yet Friday’s news highlighted the utter recklessness of Weiner’s online escapades. Since April, the Democrat’s enemies — led by a Twitter user calling himself Dan Wolfe — had been trying to draw attention to the suspiciously large number of attractive young women among the relatively small number of people Weiner was following on Twitter. Only when two Twitter users are following each other can they exchange private direct messages (DMs), which raised the question of why a member of Congress would be following a 17-year-old. In April, the girl boasted in a public Twitter message about her acquaintance with the congressman (“talking to Rep Weiner from New York right now! is my life real?”), which disturbed Wolfe.
“Weiner’s fixation on the young girls… bothered me especially,” the mysterious Wolfe said in one of his few online interviews about the WeinerGate scandal, two days before the Democrat’s June 6 press conference confession. Wolfe and others had known Weiner was exchanging DMs with women he followed because some of them, including porn performer Ginger Lee, bragged about those private messages. Even though Wolfe and his friends raised an outcry on Twitter, calling Weiner a “freak” for following teenagers, the congressman was evidently undeterred. At one point, the Delaware teen complained that he had stopped following her, and when Weiner resumed following her in mid-May, the girl sent out a public message on Twitter: “SERIOUSLY LOVING LIFE AGAIN BUT I GOTTA KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT OR ELSE.”
Weiner’s online connections with young girls were all but ignored by most reporters in their early coverage of the scandal, which was first reported May 28 by Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com. After Breitbart mentioned that angle during a May 31 appearance on CNN to discuss the story, it drew a harsh response from that network’s senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. “What Andrew Breitbart was insinuating about [Weiner] with young girls is outrageous,” Toobin said, dismissing the entire scandal as “a silly little thing that happened… not a big deal.” Weiner was then still insisting that he was the victim of a “prank” by “hackers.” A week later, at the press conference where Weiner admitted to having had “online relationships” with a half-dozen women, he was asked about his contacts with very young women, including the Seattle college student. “They were all adults — at least to the best of my knowledge they were all adults… and they were engaging in these conversations consensually,” Weiner replied, and when a similar question was raised later, he said, “I know that I never had any intention of having an interaction with underage women, and no information that I have now shows that I did.”
Those denials were greeted with suspicion by conservative bloggers who had covered the WeinerGate scandal from its inception, and who were becoming irritated by the mainstream media’s evident unwillingness to follow up with aggressive reporting. On Thursday, the blogger known as Patterico published two long articles (here and here) calling attention to the case of Weiner’s Delaware teen follower. Patterico particularly noted that the 17-year-old made reference to a super-hero costume of “cape and tights,” a motif that Weiner had used in extremely graphic online chats with Lisa Weiss, a 40-year-old Las Vegas blackjack dealer who was one of his cybersex partners. News organizations still ignored the story, however, until police showed up Friday at the girl’s house in New Castle County, Delaware. Even though police said their interview with the girl “disclosed no information regarding any criminal activity or inappropriate behavior,” the obvious objection was voiced by Ace of Spades: “A guy who sometimes sends [obscene photos of himself] to admirers should not be cultivating an online relationship with a 17 year old girl. Period.“
This may have been obvious enough even to Democrat leaders like Pelosi who, less than 24 hours before issuing her Saturday statement, had publicly refused to call for Weiner’s resignation. The scandal’s drip, drip, drip continued Sunday, when TMZ published photos of a nearly nude Weiner that the congressman had reportedly sent to one of his online admirers. Weiner had taken the photos of himself — including one showing him naked except for a towel held in front of his genital area — in the gymnasium for members of Congress in the basement of the Rayburn House Office Building. Beyond mere embarrassment, the photos contradicted Weiner’s claim that he did not use official resources to carry on his Internet dalliances. After the latest revelations, one source told the New York Daily News late Sunday, Weiner “finally began considering the possibility that he may have to resign.”
Is the “possibility” of Weiner quitting likely? Despite the public calls for his resignation from top Democrats, under House rules Weiner can’t be expelled from Congress until the Ethics Committee conducts an investigation, which could take months. Whatever might motivate Weiner to quit, it obviously can’t be shame. Anyone who has seen the middle-aged congressman’s photo self-portrait of himself posing naked in front a gym mirror must conclude that Weiner is utterly shameless.