Flashback: The Worst of the Media During Weiner's First Scandal
Former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner, now a New York mayoral candidate, admitted Tuesday to sending out lewd photos of himself even after he resigned from Congress for doing so back in June of 2011.
During the previous scandal, up until Weiner's resignation, members of the media moved from casting the evidence against him as a smear job to acknowledging his mistake while imploring him to stay in Congress to mourning the "tragedy" of his downfall and resignation and insisting he was too talented to stay out of politics for long.
When the lewd photos first broke, the press began by attacking their source, Andrew Breitbart.
"In his defense, I think we do need to point out that the person behind this is Andrew Breitbart, who has made a practice of targeting Democrats — Shirley Sherrod most notoriously of all. And his stories tend to fall apart on close inspection," said CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on the May 31, 2011 edition of Anderson Cooper 360.
"Look, Breitbart is a proven liar, okay? He doctored the Shirley Sherrod tapes. He's done this over and over again. Why would anybody take this fool seriously?" asked MSNBC host Cenk Uygur on the 6 p.m. ET hour of the June 1 MSNBC News Live.
""Well, somebody is out to get him [Weiner], apparently, 'cause they don't like his politics," said co-host of ABC's The View Joy Behar on June 2. She wondered on if someone edited photos to smear Weiner.
However, after repeatedly denying any wrongdoing, Weiner admitted on June 6 to sending out lewd photos of himself. In an interview that night on Piers Morgan Tonight, CNN's Wolf Blitzer admitted that Weiner had lied to his face and he "sort of believed" the congressman:
"I'm saying to myself, you know what, it sounds to me like it may have been his picture, but it was out there, but somebody else hacked it and somebody else sent it out to embarrass him. I sort of believed, you know, that line..."
Blitzer had related earlier that "When I sat with [Weiner] about 20 minutes the other day he seemed so convincing..."
"He [Weiner] is being pretty transparent," MSNBC's Thomas Roberts had insisted four days before Weiner admitted his lie and confessed to sending the photos.
Meanwhile, members of the media rushed to downplay the scandal and affirm Weiner's record as congressman. Here's what Barbara Walters, co-host of ABC's The View, had to say on June 9, 2011:
"He has been a good and effective congressman. His wife, whom we now know has pregnant, has said she’s going to continue with the marriage. His constituents want him. The Ethics Committee can investigate him and chastise. And we had a president named Bill Clinton who went through a great deal of trouble, weathered the storm and is now not only respected, but he's beloved by many people with a very good marriage. So, I think Anthony Weiner should hang in there. He was a good congressman, and maybe he can weather this all and be effective."
On MSNBC's Hardball on June 9, 2011, host Chris Matthews worried about Democratic congressional losses due to "backward" Christian voters being horrified at Weiner's behavior:
"If he [Weiner] stays, they [Democrats] never get the leadership back. They never get the Speakership back because the people in the rural areas of this country who are Christian conservative culturally – you can say backward if you want – but they don't like this kind of stuff at all. They're not part of that 56 percent in Brooklyn and Queens who say, 'okay, we can live with this guy'."
"Voters need to realize that sex doesn't matter when it comes to casting their votes," insisted MSNBC's Larry O'Donnell on June 1, 2011.
Then on June 16, 2011, Weiner resigned from Congress. The press mourned the departure of a "rising star" but said he'd be back in politics before long.
"In a way, it's a tragedy," lamented ABC's Barbara Walters on The View that day. "He's never had another job. What does he do after this?"
"It's almost tragic, John, because as you've been pointing out, [Weiner] was really the front-runner to become the next mayor of New York City after Michael Bloomberg," CNN's Wolf Blitzer said immediately after Weiner's resignation. "New Yorkers are very forgiving," he added.
Over a year later, NBC panelists pleaded for a second chance for the disgraced congressman -- although unbenownst to them, Weiner would later admit to sexting a year after he resigned from Congress.
"I going to tell you, he – he [Weiner] will get a second chance," said NBC panelist Donny Deutsch on Today, June 17, 2012. "I think – and he's a good politician, I think he will get a second chance."
NBC's chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman agreed and praised Weiner's knowledge of health care:
"I think Donny's right. I've interviewed him [Weiner] several times. He's cuckoo smart, he's a great representative, and no one understands health care and I think the problems better than he. He's a little bit wonkish. I think he's a very interesting person. And people do believe in redemption."
She added that "he's very smart, he wants to serve. If he serves the people well and he just says, 'Look, I really, really made a stupid, stupid, stupid mistake.' Give him a second shot."