CNN Producer Who Rep. Weiner Called a 'Jackass': Weiner's Evasion of Questions Raises Flags

CNN's Capitol Hill producer noted Wednesday that the testy behavior and evasive answers by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) in a Tuesday interview raised flags about his professed innocence in his recent Twitter account fiasco. CNN is not normally considered a network hostile to liberal Democrats, but Rep. Weiner was quite defensive Tuesday afternoon when CNN pressed him about the lewd picture sent to a female college student from his Twitter account.

When asked why he was not asking Capitol Police to investigate if someone hacked his Twitter account, Weiner launched into his talking points – that the matter was a distraction and he would not spend time talking about it. When CNN continued to ask him if the lewd picture was his and if he sent it, a flustered Weiner dodged questions and called the producer on the set a "jackass."

[Click here for audio. Video below the break.]

 

The producer, Ted Barrett, went on CNN Wednesday morning and said Weiner's answers "have not been forthcoming" and that "our flags went up" when he refused to give a yes-or-no answer as to whether he sent the picture or not. "[Weiner] is known to be very media-savvy," Barrett remarked, explaining that it was a surprise when he actually evaded questions and indicative of the fact that the congressman could be hiding information.

"[Weiner] has not tried to offer any evidence or specific proof as to why this was a prank or a hack, as he had said," asserted Barrett. "And – so we needed to get at why he wasn't being forthcoming with us, because that speaks to, you know, I think, a person's integrity and the like."

On Wednesday, Weiner finally clarified that he did not send the lewd photo – but could not state "with certitude" that the photo was not of him. He told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview that he had hired a law firm to look into the matter. "Every day people have stuff like this happen," Weiner claimed.

During the Tuesday afternoon interview, Weiner repeatedly referred to the incident as a distraction from important business at hand, and thus not worthy of a police investigation. "You know, Dana, if I was giving a speech to 45,000 people, and someone in the back of the room threw a pie or yelled out an insult, would I spend the next two hours responding to that? No," he told CNN correspondent Dana Bash.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on 9:03 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

CNN NEWSROOM
6/1/2011
9:03 a.m. EDT

CAROL COSTELLO: OK. You heard him call a man a jackass. That man was our long-time CNN Capitol Hill producer, Ted Barrett. So, Ted, welcome. Thank you for joining us this morning. I know you had a long night last night. First of all, Congressman Weiner said he didn't really want to talk about this. He wanted to – he just wanted it to go away so he could concentrate on more important things. So tell us the circumstances of this particular appearance yesterday.

TED BARRETT, CNN Capitol Hill producer: Well, we had been staking out his office for a good part of the day. And prior to this news conference, he did a news conference a few hours earlier where he gave really the very exact same answers that he did at this one about the heckler, about throwing the pie. And those answers obviously were not really material to the question about the lewd photograph and the Twitter account. And because he so clearly was relying on those talking points, and we felt strongly that we wanted to get the answers to these questions, that's why my colleague, Dana Bash, and I were pressing him so hard to really specifically address those allegations.

COSTELLO: And really, Ted, you wanted a yes-no answer. Number one, was that lewd picture of you, yes or no, Congressman Weiner? And number two, if there was someone who hacked into your account as a lawmaker, as a U.S. representative, why aren't you going to the police? Or should you go to the police? And you wanted a yes or no answer to that question. And you didn't get that. You got those talking points. Why is it important that Representative Weiner answer these questions, like flat-out yes or no?

BARRETT: Well, I think from our standpoint, it's not so much about the salacious details of the lewd photo and the like. That happens to be what this is about. But I think that his answers have not been forthcoming. He has not tried to offer any evidence or specific proof as to why this was a prank or a hack, as he had said. And – so we needed to get at why he wasn't being forthcoming with us, because that speaks to, you know, I think, a person's integrity and the like. And so – again, it wasn't about the salacious details. That's just is what this was about. But it was more about that he was not, he didn't appear to be forthcoming in his responses. He wanted to turn it and just talk about something else. And he kept doing that again and again and again and again.

COSTELLO: Right. It seemed as if he was evasive instead of just telling voters the truth about what happened. You've worked on Capitol Hill for CNN for years. What kind of reputation does Congressman Weiner have?

BARRETT: Well, I think he's got a very good reputation. He is a – he's a partisan Democrat. If you're a Democrat you like him a lot, probably. If you're a Republican, you probably find him a worthy, you know, opponent. He is known to be very media savvy. And that is one of the reasons I think that sort of our flags went up yesterday when he kept repeating this – the same media strategy to dealing with these answers, because he is a very disciplined carrier of messages. And he wanted to stay on this message, talking about debt ceiling, talking about how he wasn't going to be distracted by this. So he is a very talented politician. There's no question about that.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014