MSNBC's Luke Russert on Wednesday pressed Congressman Anthony Weiner with a very simple question: Is the picture of man in underwear that was sent out on the Representative's Twitter account his? Weiner responded, "You know, I can't say with certitude."
Russert began by wondering, "That's not a picture of you?" After a lengthy non-answer, he reasonably pointed out, "But, Congressman, you would remember if you were to take a photograph of yourself like that."
[See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Following another confusing reply about pranks and being hacked, a puzzled Russert quizzed, "But, fair enough. You will not flat-out deny that that photograph is not you?"
In a previous hour, the journalist summarized it this way: "And he said that he can't say with certitude that it's not me, meaning there's a distinct possibility that that photograph of the male area below the waist could be that of Congressman Weiner."
Earlier, MSNBC anchor Tamron Hall seemed to worry about covering the story: "A lot of people, I'm sure, reach out to you on Twitter and they're saying why are we covering Weinergate? Congressman Weiner said he that didn't want to discuss it anymore but he gave you this interview."
She added that Weiner "may not have done a great job."
[Thanks to MRC intern Alex Fitzsimmons for the video.]
A transcript of the June 1 exchange can be found below:
TAMRON HALL: Luke, you're like me. A lot of people, I'm sure, reach out to you on Twitter and they're saying why are we covering Weinergate? Congressman Weiner said he that didn't want to discuss it anymore but he gave you this interview. He was trying to clear the air but may not have done a great job at it here.
LUKE RUSSERT: Well, yesterday, Tamron, was certainly a difficult day media-wise for Congressman Weiner when he called a colleague of ours from CNN a jackass. He was angry at the media for asking him questions about this controversy, He's saying that it was a prank. It was silly, that he wanted to concentrate on bigger issues of the day. He realized it didn't go so well, as there was a lot of network coverage of what occurred at the press conference and he started to have a series of sit-down interviews with us. I just completed one with us and the real news that came out of it is, I pressed him or not, even if it was a mistake that photograph ended up in the Twitter feed of Ms. Cordova, the 21-year-old college student from Seattle, could he confirm nor deny that was actually him. And he said that he can't say with certitude that it's not me, meaning there's a distinct possibility that that photograph of the male area below the waist could be that of Congressman Weiner.
LUKE RUSSERT: 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. One of the reasons I've asked the firm that includes internet security arm is to take a look at what the heck happened here was to make sure it doesn't happen again. But let's, kinda, keep in mind why this is so silly. You know, someone committed a prank on me. Somehow got access to my Twitter account. By the way, took off a picture that made fun of the name Weiner and that's what happened here.
RUSSERT: But, Congressman, you would remember if you were to take a photograph of yourself like that.
WEINER: Well, you know one of the reasons we've asked an internet security firm to come in is to see maybe something was manipulated, somebody something dropped in. We don't know for sure what happened here. But let's try to take a step back. You know, this is a circumstance where someone committed a prank on the internet where someone spoofed me, made fun of me, whatever. We're taking it seriously in as much we want to make sure it doesn't happen again but this story has become a little bit out of control to the point that people are asking me, and asking people who follow me on Twitter, you know, personal questions. People are asking what other things are in your internet, on your, on your database.
RUSSERT: But, fair enough. You will not flat-out deny that that photograph is not you?
WEINER: Here what happens I will say: I will 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, whether a photograph was partially my account, you know. Jon Stewart might have that right last night.
RUSSERT: So, you never intentionally sent anything to Ms. Cordova?
WEINER: No. Nothing. She says that. I'm saying that. I've said that since Saturday when I said that originally. Look, this is a prank, intended I believe to make fun of me and to throw me off my game. I confess that it's done that a little more than I would have liked.