MRC’s Scott Whitlock last week called to light Joy Behar’s suggestion on The View that Congressman Anthony Weiner’s social media scandal was part of a conspiracy by political opponents, a view repudiated by fellow panelist Barbara Walters. “Somebody is out to get him, apparently, 'cause they don't like his politics,” Behar said on the ABC daytime talk show on Tuesday.
Despite Monday’s revelations, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, long the sole voice of reason on the program, was the only panelist who openly and repeatedly called for Weiner’s resignation. "He should be resigning right now," Hasselbeck said. The View’s leftist coffee klatch, however, would take no clear stand, and thought it more suitable to play armchair psychologist.
As NewsBusters' Lachlan Markay pointed out, the Weinergate scandal showcased a variety of liberal media conspiracy theories. One of the most prevalent theories focused on besmirching conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who broke the story wide open Monday with a series of posts on BigGovernment.com featuring lewd photos of Rep. Anthony Weiner.
"Look, Breitbart is a proven liar, okay?" bellowed MSNBC anchor Cenk Uygur on June 1. "He doctored the Shirley Sherrod tapes. He's done this over and over again. Why would anybody take this fool seriously?"
UPDATE: Check out reaction from some of the chief Weiner-defenders below the break.
The so-called Weinergate scandal provided a true spectacle of media bias and conspiracy theorizing. While there was certainly plenty of good reporting throughout, many opted to take Rep. Anthony Weiner's claims at face value and search for other culprits or scapegoats.
Others devised more malicious theories about why a lewd picture had appeared on the congressman's Twitter feed. It was Andrew Breitbart's attempt to gin up another bogus story, or a coordinated effort by conservatives to provide cover for Clarence Thomas. These wild theories actually gained quite a bit of traction among liberals online, and even a few mainstream personalities.
We know now, by Weiner's own admission, that they were all nonsense. So with the facts readily available, it's worth reviewing some of the dominant narratives that pervaded media coverage of the scandal.
In an interview with Andrew Breitbart on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer suggested the conservative blogger should not have broken news of the scandal involving Congressman Anthony Weiner: "Did you worry that – you know, as a conservative, you don't want government in people's bedrooms. And so did you stop and have a debate with yourself about that?"
Moments earlier, Breitbart had noted feeling some sympathy for Weiner during Monday's press conference: "I felt so unbelievably sad for this guy." Lauer responded by wondering why that sympathy didn't keep the BigGovernment.com creator from re-posting Weiner's racy tweet on the web site last week: "But if you're sad for the guy then, did you not consider that at some point you might be sad for him when you first posted that photo ten days ago?"
Barbara Walters said Monday that if Sarah Palin can be considered as a possible presidential candidate, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) can stay in Congress despite the current sex scandal he's involved in.
Significantly more shocking, "The View" co-host Joy Behar actually came to Palin's defense (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Chrystia Freeland made a series of bizarre statements on MSNBC today that were overshadowed only by Anthony Weiner's contrite presser during which the Democratic congressman admitted to tweeting the infamous crotch photo and lying to cover it up.
Before the press conference, the Reuters editor-at-large quipped that the Twitter controversy showed that Eliot Spitzer, who resigned as New York governor in 2008 after being caught sleeping with prostitutes, "is a really classy guy."
Old and new media clashed on CNN's "Reliable Sources" Sunday.
After CBS News Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes blamed Andrew Breitbart for her network's slow response to the ongoing Weinergate scandal, Gawker staff writer Maureen O'Connor said, "I think even if that's the case, it was very quickly that you could have looked into this story and verified it for yourself" (video follows with trancript and commentary):
While many liberal media members spent the week defending Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), PBS's Mark Shields may have made the best comment about this sordid affair on Friday's "Inside Washington."
Shortly after NPR's Nina Totenberg said we really shouldn't care about this scandal because "it's a great lark of a diversion," Shields asked the definitive question, "What the hell is a member of Congress, who wants to be mayor of New York, having portrait galleries of his crotch available for distribution?" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
One of the really enjoyable aspects of this week's scandal involving Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) has been watching the perilously liberal and devoted media shills tell America how unimportant the whole thing is.
A fine example was Nina Totenberg who said on Friday's "Inside Washington" that we really shouldn't care about this because " it's a great lark of a diversion" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
In the Friday morning coverage of former Sen. John Edwards' indictment by a federal grand jury, only one of the three major networks, CBS, reported that he was a Democrat. Neither ABC nor NBC reported Edwards' party affiliation, simply calling him a "former presidential candidate."
ABC's Good Morning America sympathetically called the morning "a difficult one" for Edwards as he faced indictment. Both ABC and NBC did full segments on the scandal, and ABC's Good Morning America actually led the show with the story. CBS only briefly mentioned the story before moving on with other news.
How long before Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner conducts his next meltdown press conference flanked by two adult-movie "goddesses" a la Charlie Sheen? Like the delusional bad-boy actor, Weiner actually thinks his self-destructive act is winning, too.
The tweetaholic congressman spent the week dodging and deflecting questions about what he called a "randy" image that appeared in his official, verified Twitter account last Friday. The Fruit of the Loom torso shot in his social-networking stream was addressed to a 21-year-old Seattle college student. She's an ardent fan of the cable TV-hopping lawmaker and a member of the fawning generation that unabashedly asks its political idols "boxers or briefs"?
Curiously, one of Weiner's non-deleted tweets made reference to the Seattle time zone the same night the junk photo turned up. Weiner wrinkled his nose at a question on Wednesday about that inconvenient allusion, dismissing it as "pure, pure coincidence." He refused to explain why he gave Seattle of all places a Twitter shout-out. Weiner, if I may helpfully point out, represents New York's 9th District, not Washington State's.
"Frankly" — (red flag!) — he protested, he had "no idea." He then segued into relentless self-promotion of his "feisty" Twitter messages and started braying about the debt limit and health care reform.
It worked on cowed CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer. But did it work on his wife? Would it work on yours?
Sending creepy photos to another adult on Twitter is not a crime, of course. But it is abjectly embarrassing for Democrats to be caught with their double-standard pants down — especially given how liberals hyperventilated over former GOP New York Rep. Christopher Lee's shirtless Craigslist photo. As always, it's the cover-up that's worse than the original transgression.
UPDATE: Some hours after the Times's initial filing, the phrase "former senator" in paragraph one was changed to read "former Democratic senator."
Where’s the party? New York Times reporter Katharine Seelye filed an online report early Friday on the breaking story of the indictment on campaign finance violations of John Edwards, the former senator and 2008 Democratic presidential candidate (and John Kerry’s 2004 running mate), on charges he violated campaign finance law to conceal an extramarital affair during his presidential campaign. Only one thing missing: His political party.
MSNBC's Thomas Roberts spun furiously for Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) Thursday, dismissing the Twitter controversy as a sideshow undeserving of the media's attention.
"He's being pretty transparent," opined the daytime anchor, turning to Republican strategist Joe Watkins. "Joe, wouldn't you agree?"
After Watkins agreed but suggested Weiner's refusal to clarify whether he is the man in the photo does not help his case, Roberts followed up by parroting the Democratic congressman's dodge: "Well why waste taxpayer dollars on something kind of so stupid?"
For a compilation video showing Weiner's lack of transparency and inability to cooperate with the media, see below the fold:
Comedian Jon Stewart took "the most trusted name in news" to task for the network's reluctance to investigate the Twitter controversy that has embroiled Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).
Although the Comedy Central host is a personal friend of Weiner, he lambasted CNN on the May 31 "Daily Show" for glossing over the issue while political blogs relentlessly pounded the pavement over the weekend to uncover the truth.
According to Joy Behar of 'The View,' someone is "out to get" Anthony Weiner because "they don't like his politics." Behar and her co-host Whoopi Goldberg advanced a conspiracy theory on Thursday and included the possibility that the Congressman could have been at a beach and had an innocent photo digitally manipulated. Meanwhile, Barbara Walters pronounced dead the political goal of the politician to one day be New York's mayor.
Offering cover for Weiner, Goldberg theorized, "Well, you know, if you have been on a beach in a bathing suit with friends- and I've had this happen, so I know that this can get done- where they take, you know, a little piece of you and they put you in a diaper or whatever."
At the top of Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Meredith Vieira worried about the impact of the Twitter photo scandal on Congressman Anthony Weiner's career: "Will the scandal and his response to it derail his political ambitions?"
Talking to chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd later, Vieira pointed out how "the people who write the headlines in New York City are obviously having a heyday with this" but then soberly added, "beyond the laughs here, this guy is a rising star in this state, especially in the city of New York, considered a front-runner for the next mayoral campaign....What about the political toll?"
Former Clinton adviser turned CNN political analyst Paul Begala Wednesday evening gave Anderson Cooper the predictable Party line about Weinergate being no big deal.
Without skipping a beat, the host of "Anderson Cooper 360" replied, "But, Paul, if this was a conservative Republican, would you be saying the same thing?" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
So now we know: Donny Deutsch would advise Dems caught in a sex scandal . . . to fabricate a false story.
On today's Morning Joe, ad man Deutsch stated that, when caught with his pants down, Anthony Weiner should have been "very honest" and claimed that he had sent the picture to his wife. And by "very honest," Deutsch of course means "very dishonest" since no one, starting with Weiner himself, suggests that the congressman meant to send the shot to his wife but that somehow it went out to a 21-year old college student in Seattle. Hat tip reader Texndoc.
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, much of the media muttered about how unresponsive Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was to questions about how he's been multitasking on Twitter. Today it appears the liberal Democrat has redeemed himself through an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Guest hosting on CNN's John King, USA this evening, Jessica Yellin began an interview with two political operatives:
Gentlemen thanks for being with us. You are both used to helping candidates, right and left basically extricate their feet from their mouths during tough times. I have to say, I thought that Congressman Weiner was refreshingly candid in this interview. He admitted that he didn't handle it so well yesterday and that's why he was talking to Wolf today.
ABC's GMA and NBC's Today on Wednesday both did due diligence on the Rep. Anthony Weiner brouhaha surrounding a lewd photo posted on his Twitter site. ABC's Jonathan Karl noted how Weiner didn't give "the most convincing press conference" in response to the controversy. NBC's Meredith Vieira highlighted how "people are wondering why he is being so defensive." But CBS's Early Show didn't even cover the story.
GMA anchor George Stephanopoulos led the 7 am Eastern hour with a teaser on the burgeoning scandal: "Underwear uproar: a powerful congressman at the center of controversy over a photo flap online. Did someone break into his Twitter account and send a lewd picture, or did he do it? Congressman Weiner's response this morning."
For several days, NewsBusters readers have been asking why we haven't commented on the growing controversy surrounding Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and an indecent picture sent from his Twitter account to a 21-year-old girl in Seattle, Washington.
As there seem to have been far more questions concerning this sensitive matter than answers, we have been observing the press reaction trying to assess how a media that is typically protective of Democrats handled the scandal.
CNN media analyst Howard Kurtz on Monday offered Bill Clinton, John Edwards, and Eliot Spitzer as examples of how the press don't give Democrats the benefit of the doubt when it comes to sex scandals.
Responding to questions about why the media have either ignored or taken sides on this weekend's brouhaha surrounding Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), Kurtz sent the following absurd message via Twitter:
Yet another case study in how the liberal media never stop pushing their own interpretation of events: In a May 22 This Week roundtable about the arrest of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn for the alleged sexual assault of a female hotel worker, two journalists endorsed it as France’s “Anita Hill moment,” referring to the last-minute claims raised against conservative Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas nearly 20 years ago.
But Hill never alleged that Thomas did anything either violent or criminal — and polls taken at the time (USA Today, October 14, 1991) showed the public sided with Clarence Thomas over Hill by a nearly two-to-one margin (47% to 24%). Despite the public’s verdict, journalists have never cast the Hill case as that of a politically-motivated accuser engaged in a high-profile act of character assassination.
Featured on Time Magazine's Web site is "The Misconduct Matrix." Subtitled "Not all affairs are created equal," the graphic presents 19 men guilty of - make that allegedly guilty of in some instances- serious sexual misbehavior.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn is listed, as are Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Tiger Woods, John Kennedy and, of course, the president who gave phone sex a bad name, the impeached Bill Clinton. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is also included on the matrix.
Sharing the same quadrant (Doghouse, Massively Hypocritical) with Justice Thomas are Arnold Schwarzenegger, who's admitted to fathering a child with a staff member, Newt Gingrich, who's admitted to at least one affair, and Thomas Jefferson, who "reportedly fathered six children with his slave." Even if Thomas were guilty of what Anita Hill charged, his conduct was not nearly as egregious as the others. Talking about pubic hair on a Coke can isn't close to adultery or fathering children out of wedlock.
Gail Collins, the New York Times’s editorial page editor (2001-2007) turned feminist columnist, went on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show on Tuesday night to discuss the revelation that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger having a child with a long-time domestic servant. Although Schwarzenegger, the former bodybuilder and actor, hardly has a reputation as a social conservative, Collins nonetheless used him to tar the social right as hypocrites.
Maddow: But we’re sort of being confronted with the glass houses and throwing stones problem. I understand why people have glass houses. People fail. But why is throwing stones still part of, a main stream part of Republican politics?
COLLINS: Well, because there are people, a lot of people in the country who not only have very strong, you know, family values, but believe that somehow you can legislate them into other people`s families and they’re very powerful within the party. So, the poor Republican candidates, I must say, do get kind of stuck on this one because they toe this very rigid line about personal behavior when like most human beings, they’re failing to live up to it.
Talking to Los Angeles Times reporter Robin Abcarian about the Arnold Schwarznegger scandal on Thursday, NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer wondered if the liberal paper was now justified in accusing the Republican of groping women as he ran for governor of California in 2003: "In some ways, eight years later, do you and other folks at the paper feel vindicated?"
Abcarian argued: "We don't feel vindicated....We felt at the time we published those allegations in 2003 that they were important, they were verified....There was no question to us that he was a serial sexual groper at the least." Both Lauer and Abcarian seemed to miss the fact that Schwarzenegger admitted to a consensual affair with his housekeeper, not to sexually harassing and assaulting women.
Every hour but one of CNN's Tuesday evening news coverage featured at least a mention of former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's marital infidelity. Guess which anchor backed away from any mention of the scandal?
Schwarzenegger's revelation of his fathering a child with a mistress was one of the day's leading headlines, and merited a mention if not a segment on most every CNN news hour Tuesday. During its 5 p.m.-12 a.m. EDT coverage, CNN reported the story every hour except during the 8 p.m. EDT slot – the prime-time show In the Arena with Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer made no mention of the story.
CNN continued its rehabilitation of Eliot Spitzer's political career in leaving his name out of a lengthy list of recent political sex scandals Tuesday. As MediaBistro and my colleague Tom Blumer reported yesterday, the network shied away from disclosing the checkered past of one of its prime-time anchors.
In the wake of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's revelations that he fathered a child with a mistress, CNN ran a segment during the 2 p.m. EDT hour covering recent political sex scandals. Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux mentioned six by name and CNN ran old news clips of even more – but failed to disclose that the current host of a CNN prime-time show was once embroiled in an infamous scandal.
UPDATE, May 18: NewsBusters commenter "dreamsincolor" has pointed out that CNN "somehow" forgot Democratic New York Congressman Eric Massa, who resigned in 2009 to avoid "an ethics investigation into alleged misconduct toward a male staff member."
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Chris Ariens filed a report today at MediaBistro's TVNewser that opened with a reader's Tweet, which plaintively asked: "Did CNN really exclude Spitzer from Malveaux package on Sex Scandals & Politics? Hmm.."