NPR: 'Hard for Democrats' to Call for Resignation of 'Bulldog' Weiner

NPR's Renee Montagne touted the Rep. Anthony Weiner sex scandal as a "dilemma" for Democrats on Wednesday's Morning Edition. Correspondent Andrea Seabrook also underlined how it was apparently "hard for Democrats to call for his resignation" because the New York politician is a "bulldog" for their issues.

Montagne used her label during an introduction for Seabrook's report, which put the Weiner controversy in the context of other Washington sex scandals: "The New York Democrat admitted earlier this week that he had inappropriate exchanges with women online, exchanges that included sexually explicit pictures. He also said he will not resign his House seat. As NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports, that poses a dilemma for his Democratic colleagues."

Andrea Seabrook, NPR Correspondent, taken from http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tim-graham/2009/11/27/npr-reporter-oozes-over-mrs-obama-state-dinner-perfect-mix-poise-personaMidway through her report, after highlighting the dalliances of former President Bill Clinton, former Democratic Representative Erica Massa, and Senator David Vitter, the reporter stated that "Weiner says his actions are completely separate from his official duties and shouldn't taint his work in Congress." She then played a sound bite from Stan Brand, whom she identified as "an attorney who has defended many lawmakers before the House and Senate Ethics Committees." Brand offered his take on the possible legal troubles which Rep. Weiner faced: "I don't see, yet, what the legal issue is for him."

What Seabrook didn't mention is Brand's own connection to the Democratic Party. He was the House of Representatives's general counsel under long-term House Speaker Tip O'Neill between 1976 and 1983. She continued by outlining more of his take on the Weiner scandal: "It's not illegal to flirt, he says, and it's not illegal to lie to the press. That happens all the time. Also, said Brand, there are no congressional rules for how to act online."

The NPR correspondent's "bulldog" label for the New York Democrat came near the end of the report, and she emphasized this by playing fiery clip from a floor speech he gave about a year ago:

SEABROOK: What may make it so hard for Democrats to call for his resignation is that Weiner has been such an effective communicator for their causes. He's a bulldog. Last summer, he took to the floor in response to GOP feet-dragging on a bill to pay for health coverage for 9-11 responders.

REPRESENTATIVE ANTHONY WEINER (from speech on the House floor): It's Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans, rather than doing the right thing on behalf of the heroes. It is a shame- a shame!

Back in November 2009, Seabrook gushed over First Lady Michelle Obama, praising her apparently "perfect mix of personable and formal, poise and personality."

The full transcript of Andrea Seabrook's report from Wednesday's Morning Edition:

RENEE MONTAGNE: Congressman Anthony Weiner says he's staying put. The New York Democrat admitted earlier this week that he had inappropriate exchanges with women online, exchanges that included sexually explicit pictures. He also said he will not resign his House seat. As NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports, that poses a dilemma for his Democratic colleagues.

ANDREA SEABROOK: In the long and storied history of Washington sex scandals, there are examples of shamed politicians who stayed and others who resigned. Let's test your memory. Can you guess who this is?

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

SEABROOK: And then later came this-

CLINTON: Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong.

SEABROOK: If you said Bill Clinton, you're right. The former president, a Democrat, stayed in office after he admitted to the affair, though Republicans did try to oust him. Next sound clip, this one from a taped conference call. Who's this?

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE ERIC MASSA: Now, there are blogs who are saying that I'm leaving because there were charges of harassment against my staff.

SEABROOK: Don't know this one? I'll give you a clue: tickle fights. Yup, it's New York Democrat Eric Massa, who claimed he was resigning because he had cancer, though leaving the House also got him out of an ethics investigation. Okay, how about this one?

SENATOR DAVID VITTER: I want to, again, offer my deep, sincere apologies to all those I have let down and disappointed with these actions from my past.

SEABROOK: This one is especially notable, because the lawmaker talking is still in the United States Senate. It's David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana. He was exposed as being a client of a Washington prostitution ring. That's illegal. After his apology in 2007, Vitter ran for re-election last fall and won by a wide margin. There are many more examples of Washington sex scandals. Just look on Wikipedia. The list goes back to 1796.

Weiner says his actions are completely separate from his official duties and shouldn't taint his work in Congress. And as for whether what he did was illegal-

STAN BRAND: I don't see, yet, what the legal issue is for him.

SEABROOK: That's Stan Brand, an attorney who has defended many lawmakers before the House and Senate Ethics Committees. It's not illegal to flirt, he says, and it's not illegal to lie to the press. That happens all the time. Also, said Brand, there are no congressional rules for how to act online. But still, Democratic leaders have to decide whether to ask Weiner to resign. and get all this out of the spotlight. or let him stay. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi requested an ethics investigation, to find out if Weiner used any government resources or broke any other rules in his digital dalliances. And Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, when asked about this yesterday, responded with-

SENATOR HARRY REID: I know Congressman Weiner. I wish there was some way I can defend him, but I can't.


SEABROOK: What may make it so hard for Democrats to call for his resignation is that Weiner has been such an effective communicator for their causes. He's a bulldog. Last summer, he took to the floor in response to GOP feet-dragging on a bill to pay for health coverage for 9-11 responders.

REPRESENTATIVE ANTHONY WEINER (from speech on the House floor): It's Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans, rather than doing the right thing on behalf of the heroes. It is a shame- a shame!

SEABROOK: Several high-profile Republicans have called for Weiner's resignation, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. And the Democrats have to ask themselves: when it comes to being an asset to them, are Weiner's political skills cancelled out by his Twitter sex scandal? Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center