Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner was probably expecting softball questions from Rachel Maddow last night. That's not quite how it played out.
On Friday, the same evening he previously appeared on Maddow's MSNBC show, a risque photo of Weiner was sent from his Twitter account. An uproar in the blogosphere and broader media quickly followed, with Weiner denying he sent the photo but not addressing whether the photo was of him.
Weiner made another attempt at damage control when he went on Maddow's show again Wednesday. Before he appeared, however, Maddow signaled that the interview would not be business as usual when she said this (video below page break) --
If you were not watching television all day but you missed your TV while you're gone and would like to know what your TV looked like while you were out, here you go. (Images shown of Weiner on television). This was the news wallpaper today, Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner speaking more candidly to reporters about a picture he is accused of tweeting to a woman in Seattle on Friday.
"Speaking more candidly" -- in other words, Weiner's previous remarks were less than candid. After five more minutes of Maddow offering possible explanations for how the photo could have been sent, it was time for Maddow to interview Weiner himself. Weiner half-heartedly answered a few questions before Maddow put the hub of the matter squarely before him --
MADDOW: Is it possible that this started out as a private photo of yours that ended up in the public domain accidentally or at least in a way that you didn't intend?
WEINER: Well, it, it could, it could be or it could have been a photograph that was, that's taken out of context or manipulated or changed in some way. So maybe it did, it did, or maybe it's, it's a photograph that, that was dropped into an account from, from somewhere else. It, I mean, I can't say, I don't want to cast this net wider by saying it's someone else, so I'm going to say that, that, that I can't say with certitude it's me or it's not.
Weiner's response, winnowed to its essence -- Yes, it could be me. And is there an innocent man who ever spoke these words -- "I don't want to cast this net wider by saying it's someone else." When police hear this from a suspect, they stop looking for other suspects.
Maddow pressed on, addressing Weiner's use of social media --
MADDOW: In terms of your constituents watching all of this unfold and wondering if there is fire here behind all of the smoke, wondering if you're doing creepy things online essentially, how do you intend to reassure your constituents and the people who have supported you politically that they shouldn't think that you're a creep?
WEINER: Well, you know, the simple fact here is that what this appears to be is probably what it is, someone making fun of my name, someone trying to cause trouble for me, maybe poke fun at me. You know, when your name is Weiner and someone posts a picture like that, the most obvious conclusion is that someone was pranking me and punking me and I get that. I kind of am concerned about how far and wide this conspiracy theory has run. I mean, I've got people who did nothing more than just follow me on Twitter who are getting calls from reporters. We have people that I followed who they asked me to follow them who are now showing up in paper, in articles in the newspaper. Look, people get hacked all the time. Hundreds of thousands of times each year someone has their account either compromised or someone else takes their name or something like that. Um, it happened to me. I don't think it's the end of the world if people want to draw this conclusion that it was, I mean, it's much more successful hack than I think even anyone who did it could have imagined because it's gotten all of this oxygen. This is what life is like perhaps in social media in the world of 2011 and I'll do the very best I can to persuade my constituents, both I'm going to keep doing my job and, to be honest with you, I'm going to return to Twitter. I'm going to keep doing the things that I was doing because I think it helps me do my job.
Thanks for being so honest with us, congressman, at least about returning to Twitter.
Still not done, Maddow asked one last question, referring to Weiner's earlier remark that he hired a firm to look into the security of his social media. Will those findings be made public, she asked. "Yeah, I mean, that's a fair request," Weiner said, elaborating on the work to be done. "And I think it's fair for people to ask."
To which I might have added two more questions -- boxers or briefs? And are inclined to sleepwalk with a camera?