NPR Looks Back Favorably at 'Passionate Defender of Heroes' Weiner

NPR's Andrea Seabrook reminisced about the "defining moments" of former Representative Anthony during a glowing report on Thursday's All Things Considered. In particular, Seabrook highlighted his infamous 2010 speech on the House floor defending a multi-billion dollar proposal to aid sick 9/11 rescue workers, and labeled the New York Democrat a "scrappy and passionate defender of heroes."

The correspondent summed up Weiner's early career at the beginning of her report and noted how "his star began to rise toward the end of the health care debate in Congress, a debate that snarled most of 2009 and the spring of 2010." After playing a clip from a speech that the politician gave to a group of Young Democrats, Seabrook underlined how "he always had pluck, but that debate brought out the anti-Republican bulldog in Weiner."

After briefly touching on two of the former congressman's "defining moments from last year," (his marriage to Huma Abedin, his success in raising money for a potential bid for New York City mayor), Seabrook touted his shout down of Republican on the House floor:

Andrea Seabrook, NPR Correspondent; taken from http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tim-graham/2010/03/11/npr-touted-kucinich-debate-made-patrick-kennedy-yell-press | NewsBusters.orgSEABROOK: ...[D]uring a debate over health care for 9/11 first responders, Weiner took to the House floor to fight against Republicans.

WEINER (from speech on House floor): If you believe this is a bad idea to provide health care, then vote no! But don't give me the cowardly view that, oh, if it was a different procedure. The gentleman will observe regular order-

SEABROOK: That scene of a scrappy and passionate defender of heroes made news. Weiner did the rounds of the political talk shows, became a popular pundit, quickly and forcefully making the case for Democratic ideals. He was the man to watch.

Later, the NPR reporter cited former President Clinton (whom she lionized as an "elder statesman"), Newt Gingrich, and CNN host and former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer as examples of politicians disgraced by sex scandal who underwent revivals and hinted that the same might happen with Weiner:

SEABROOK: Two facts about our culture are proved time and again: Americans believe in redemption, and there is life after politics. Bill Clinton is now more likely to be called an elder statesman than a shamed president. Newt Gingrich married the woman he was having an affair with during the Lewinsky scandal, and they're now on the campaign trail as he runs for president. And Eliot Spitzer, the New York governor, exposed as a client of a prostitution service, now has a political talk show on CNN....though Weiner's career seems over and done with now, there may be more to this story as the scandal fades.

Just over a week earlier, on the June 8, 2011 episode of Morning Edition, Seabrook used the same "bulldog" label for Weiner, and underscored how it was supposedly "hard for Democrats to call for his resignation."

The full transcript of Andrea Seabrook's report from Thursday's All Things Considered:

MELISSA BLOCK: We turn to NPR congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook. She looks back at the career of a man who was one of the Democratic Party's most promising young stars.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Until last year, Weiner was considered a mid-level politician on the national stage. He'd worked for then-Representative Chuck Schumer, and won Schumer's seat after he left for the Senate. In 2005, Weiner ran in the Democratic primary to be the mayor of New York. He finished second. His star began to rise toward the end of the health care debate in Congress, a debate that snarled most of 2009 and the spring of 2010.

REPRESENTATIVE ANTHONY WEINER (from 2010 speech): You know, from time to time in this debate during health care, you know, I kind of felt that sometimes, we- as Democrats, we come into knife fights carrying library books that- (audience laughs)

SEABROOK: Here, Weiner speaks to the Manhattan Young Democrats in early April 2010. He always had pluck, but that debate brought out the anti-Republican bulldog in Weiner.

WEINER: And this year, we showed them that we can take a punch and give one back as well, and that's why- (audience applauds)

SEABROOK: Later in July, three defining moments: one, he married Huma Abedin, a brilliant and connected political aide to Senator and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; two, his campaign reports released that month showed he'd already amassed $3.9 million for his bid to be mayor of New York City, an election then more than three years away; and three, during a debate over health care for 9/11 first responders, Weiner took to the House floor to fight against Republicans.

WEINER (from speech on House floor): If you believe this is a bad idea to provide health care, then vote no! But don't give me the cowardly view that, oh, if it was a different procedure. The gentleman will observe regular order-

SEABROOK: That scene of a scrappy and passionate defender of heroes made news. Weiner did the rounds of the political talk shows, became a popular pundit, quickly and forcefully making the case for Democratic ideals. He was the man to watch. In retrospect, perhaps, the height of his career came this spring in a splashy speech to the annual congressional correspondents' dinner.

WEINER: And really, like, who is Boehner fooling? What am I, like, Anthony Wain-er? What am I? Like, who are you? Like I'm serious, brother, just embrace it, you know? I mean-

SEABROOK: Washington's biggest ballroom was packed with journalists and political stars, and Weiner put them on notice, comparing himself to President Obama's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who lost half a finger in a restaurant accident as a teenager. Emanuel had recently been elected mayor of Chicago on the night Weiner spoke.

WEINER: I mean, who knew that what it takes to be mayor of a big city is to be a hot-tempered arrogant loud Jew with nine and a half fingers? Who knew? (audience laughs) And in other news, I've taken a job at Arby's as the meat cutter. (audience laughs)

SEABROOK: In Washington and New York, it was practically an assumption that Weiner would be the Big Apple's next mayor- until May, that famous accidental Tweet, 10 days of lying and self-righteous protests, and then, this:

WEINER (from press conference): I haven't told the truth, and I have done things that I deeply regret.


SEABROOK: Following Weiner's confession, the calls for his resignation grew in number and in weight. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he wished he could defend Weiner, but he couldn't. President Obama said Weiner had embarrassed himself and should step down. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi signaled Weiner would be striped of his committee assignments if he chose to stay. Eventually, Weiner found his position untenable.

Andrea Seabrook, NPR News- wait, there's a postscript! Two facts about our culture are proved time and again: Americans believe in redemption, and there is life after politics. Bill Clinton is now more likely to be called an elder statesman than a shamed president. Newt Gingrich married the woman he was having an affair with during the Lewinsky scandal, and they're now on the campaign trail as he runs for president. And Eliot Spitzer, the New York governor, exposed as a client of a prostitution service, now has a political talk show on CNN.

ELIOT SPITZER (from CNN's "In the Arena"): If Anthony Weiner, at the very first moment, had stood up and said, let me be open: this is a chapter in my life I'm not proud of. Here are the facts-

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Yeah-

SEABROOK: Spitzer could have been talking about himself, and that proves the point: though Weiner's career seems over and done with now, there may be more to this story as the scandal fades. Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington.

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