NBC Wonders How 'Rising Star' Weiner Can Get Pic Scandal 'Behind Him'
At the top of Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Meredith Vieira worried about the impact of the Twitter photo scandal on Congressman Anthony Weiner's career: "Will the scandal and his response to it derail his political ambitions?"
Talking to chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd later, Vieira pointed out how "the people who write the headlines in New York City are obviously having a heyday with this" but then soberly added, "beyond the laughs here, this guy is a rising star in this state, especially in the city of New York, considered a front-runner for the next mayoral campaign....What about the political toll?"
Todd admitted, "I think it has taken a toll" and lamented how the usually "straightforward" and "straight-talker" Weiner sounded "evasive" in interviews about the controversy. In response, Vieira wondered: "...how does he get ahead of this story again or get it behind him?"
In a report prior to Vieira's discussion with Todd, congressional correspondent Luke Russert replayed portions of his Wednesday interview with Weiner. Russert sympathetically noted: "Weiner says the ordeal has taken a personal toll on him and his wife, Huma Abedin, a highly regarded advisor to Hillary Clinton."
Todd struck a similar tone: "But at the end of the day, I think we all know he's probably answering tougher questions at home than he is and he does in the interviews he did yesterday....he may be dealing also with his crisis at home in some form or another, and I think that's what – what may be obvious to us in dealing with a public problem may not be so obvious at home."
Here is a full transcript of the June 2 segment:
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Image problem. Congressman Anthony Wiener speaks out to again deny that he sent a lewd photo from his Twitter account but won't rule out the possibility that's him in the picture. Will the scandal and his response to it derail his political ambitions?
VIEIRA: Now to politics and the ongoing fallout over racy pictures sent to a young woman from Congressman Anthony Weiner's Twitter account. He says he was the victim of a prank. NBC's Luke Russert spoke to him on Wednesday and he is on Capitol Hill with the latest. Luke, good morning to you.
LUKE RUSSERT: Good morning, Meredith. Congressman Anthony Wiener did his best to put this issue behind him, but in the process left open the possibility that the lewd picture in question could, in fact, be him.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Trick or Tweet? Weiner Won't Deny Lewd Photo is a Picture of Him]
On Wednesday Congressman Weiner tried a different tactic, in an attempt to end the controversy that's been plaguing him all week. He decided to sit for one-on-one interviews, repeating his claim that he was the victim of a prank, but still leaving a key question unanswered.
ANTHONY WEINER: I was pranked, I was hacked, I was punked, whatever it is. Someone sent out a picture. I'm an easy name to make fun of and I think that that's what happened again.
RUSSERT: Congressman Weiner denied again that he sent this picture of a man in briefs to a 21-year-old female college student in Seattle through his Twitter account.
WEINER: It's a terrible thing that this poor woman got dragged into it. She says she knows nothing about it. And I, obviously, don't know anything about it. I didn't send that picture out.
RUSSERT: But Weiner left one very important question unanswered, refusing to say that the picture was not him. That's not a picture of you?
WEINER: You know, I can't say with certitude. My system was hacked. Pictures can be manipulated, pictures can be dropped in and inserted. Someone committed a prank on me, somehow got access to my Twitter account and, you know, put up a picture that made fun of the name Weiner.
RUSSERT: You would remember if you were to take a photograph of yourself like that.
WEINER: One of the reasons we've asked an internet security firm to come in is to see maybe something was manipulated, maybe something was dropped in, we don't for sure what happened here.
RUSSERT: You will not flat out deny that that photograph is not you?
WEINER: Here's what I will say. I would say that we're trying to figure out exactly what happened here, whether a photograph was manipulated that was found in my account, whether something was dropped into my account.
RUSSERT: And even if the photograph is of Weiner, computer expert Anthony DeRosa says the Congressman's Twitter account still could have been hacked.
ANTHONY DEROSA: And it seems like the technical evidence is more leaning in his favor but everything that's coming out of his mouth is kind of putting him in a worse position.
RUSSERT: Weiner says the ordeal has taken a personal toll on him and his wife, Huma Abedin, a highly regarded advisor to Hillary Clinton.
WEINER: That even for someone that went through the Clinton years, this has been a befuddling experience. The implication here is that somehow I did something wrong to someone else. I was the victim of a prank, okay? I was the victim of a prank here and the fact of the matter is that that's the bottom line here.
RUSSERT: Now, this prank is testing the patience of Weiner's fellow Democrats. One Democratic leadership aid telling me it has become a huge distraction for the party. We'll keep you updated on any developments here on Capitol Hill. Meredith.
VIEIRA: Alright, Luke Russert, thank you very much. Chuck Todd is NBC's political director and chief White House correspondent. Chuck, good morning to you.
CHUCK TODD: Good morning.
VIEIRA: Look, the people who write the headlines in New York City are obviously having a heyday with this. New York Post, 'Weiner Exposed.' Daily News, 'Weiner's Pickle.' But beyond all that, beyond the laughs here, this guy is a rising star in this state, especially in the city of New York, considered a front-runner for the next mayoral campaign. He talks about the personal toll this is taking on his marriage. What about the political toll?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Trick or Tweet? Weiner and the Politics of Twitter]
TODD: Well, I think it has taken a toll on that front as well because this is a guy that is known for being straightforward, a little bit of a straight-talker, sometimes too much so for some people. And yet, on this episode he sounds evasive. He sounds exactly opposite of the guy who's built a reputation for being a little in your face sometimes, telling you things you don't want to hear, and that's what's made this episode odd. It's just the answers to him are unWeiner-like. But at the end of the day, I think we all know he's probably answering tougher questions at home than he is and he does in the interviews he did yesterday.
VIEIRA: Yeah, but again, when you talk about the fact that he is, at the very least, being evasive, how does he get ahead of this story again or get it behind him?
TODD: Well I – here's the thing, what we don't know. Is we don't know what's going on in his home.
[LAUGHTER OFF CAMERA]
We don't know the answers he's dealing with there, and think that's the problem at the end of the day is that he's dealing in a public forum when he may be dealing also with his crisis at home in some form or another, and I think that's what – what may be obvious to us in dealing with a public problem may not be so obvious at home.
VIEIRA: Yeah, I'm going to get off that now because anything you say has a double entendre with this story.