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The Ick-arus of Capitol Hill
by Michelle Malkin
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?
It’s not working on Weiner’s constituents:
…in Mr. Weiner’s district, which stretches across portions of Brooklyn and Queens, his constituents said they were exasperated, confused and more than a little amused. In a series of interviews around the district on Thursday, one sentiment was expressed more than any other: residents were skeptical that their congressman could not recognize a pair of gray boxer briefs.
“I would think everybody knows their undergarments,” said Cori Attias, 46, of Mill Basin, Brooklyn, who said she would be able to recognize a picture of herself based on the underwear alone. “It would be weird if he didn’t know. It’s either, ‘Yes those are my boxer briefs,’ or ‘No, they’re not.’ ”
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.
In Weiner’s barrage of defiant yabber-jabber, the incident has morphed from a “hacking” to a “prank” to “spam” to a “goofy thing.” And in the political circumlocution of the year, he can’t say for sure if it’s his package in the pic (Maybe it’s “Randy’s”?), but he adamantly maintains he didn’t deliver it.
Adding to the fiasco: Increasing buzz that there are more photos of Weiner’s junk floating around even as Weiner persists in denying that he sent the Friday night special wrapped in gray boxers:
Two people who spoke to him privately said he had suggested that, as one said, “he took or sent a photo or photos like this at some point — but in this case actually was hacked/set up, perhaps with a posting of one of his own photos or something very similar.”
In a little-noticed red flag during his softball interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Weiner himself indicated that he may have stored such photos “in another account.”
Just a few months ago, this Ick-arus of Capitol Hill was the toast of the Beltway at the White House Correspondents Dinner in D.C. — cracking off-color jokes about his name, making nasty cracks at his GOP congressional arch-nemesis Rep. Michele Bachmann and boasting (again) about his cable-TV combativeness. Echoing the many fan-girls he follows on Twitter, the media elite gushed that Weiner “killed it.”
The party’s over, but he’s still yukking it up while his political credibility and public dignity are on the line. Washington Times editor Emily Miller reports that Weiner indulged in repeated, bizarre phallic jokes with Beltway reporters on Wednesday afternoon, joking that he was “a little bit stiff” and that the story was “the point of al-Qaida’s sword.”
He then turned on his heels, sat down for the cameras and played the role of chivalrous knight for his wife, extolling his own virility in doing all he can to “protect her.” But his disrespect of women (the obsession with Bachmann is downright creepy) and his disastrously flippant response to the controversy are — as with everything he’s attempted this week — doing far more harm than good.
Like the mythical jerk who ignored common sense and flew too close to the sun, Weiner keeps flapping his lips while the brouhaha’s heat melts the wax off his sullied wings.
He’s falling and he can’t shut up.
The next day, New York’s Anthony Weiner finds the time to hunt down Diana’s E-mail address. He writes that he hopes they might meet again. Diana is overwhelmed that he’s managed to think of her on a day that must be heavy with import and emotional intensity. Last night he mentioned that he’d be going to Manhattan to inspect the World Trade Center wreckage with the president. They’d be traveling together on Air Force One.
Caroline records: “Went for lunch with Diana. Anthony Weiner has emailed her and she didn’t know he was a member of Congress. She died when I showed her his card! It was so funny!! I think she likes him, but she doesn’t want to admit it. In fact, I know she likes him ’cos she’s been on his website this afternoon looking at the photo gallery.”
A week later, two nights before Caroline will leave for England, the girls return to the Capital Grille. Now they know the drill, and they capture their prey with ease. “Three more congressmen,” Diana gloats. “Republicans—got their cards and everything.”
She has left Anthony Weiner dangling, after he E-mailed her that she should come and visit his office “in person.” “I thought that was kind of cheesy,” sniffs Diana.
Cheesy. Skeevy. Skeezy. Take your pick.
Update: Weiner finally called the police…to help him remove a NYC CBS affiliate reporter from his office.
Ace of Spades helpfully provides his own crisis communications tutorial for besieged Weiner, punctures the latest trial ballons, and provides direct linkage to the Internet Computer Complaint Center of the FBI.
Update: For those of you following the Weiner-backers’ theory that Yfrog — the affiliate photo-sharing site where the Weiner junk photo was hosted — was somehow hacked and used to violate Weiner’s Twitter account, read Yfrog’s own rejection of that theory here and George (Seixon) Gooding’s post here.
On a related note, the idea that Weiner had no clue what Yfrog is does not pass the smell test. Or the SnapBird test. As an avid Twitter user myself, I use the SnapBird archive to search old tweets You can search anyone’s public tweets through the service. Before a recent overhaul, “old” tweets would contain a tag line about how they were published (tweeted via Blackberry, iPhone, on the web, etc.). A search for “RepWeiner” (the name of his official, verified Twitter account) and “yfrog” yields 7 instances (not including last Friday’s deleted crotch shot) between September 2010 and May 2011 when Weiner tweeted pics hosted on his yfrog account.
Six of these instances were photos tweeted directly from his Blackberry to Twitter. Yfrog has a Twitter app for Blackberry phones and is a default photo host for the Blackberry Twitter app. In other words, Yfrog’s set-up allows a Twitter user to authorize Yfrog as one’s primary photo-hosting site — and bypass a separate sign-in process to the Yfrog site. You can snap a pic with your phone, upload it as part of a Twitter message, and have the yfrog link automatically generate and appear in your tweet.
Weiner’s backers argue that he has no familiarity with Yfrog because he never manually logged into its stand-alone site.
But the Snapbird timeline shows otherwise.
The back-story behind the posting of the photo involves (once again) Weiner celebrating the number of his Twitter followers.
I bring this all up to bring you back to Weiner’s curious response to Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday about how and why he came to delete photos from the Yfrog account. The passage was packed with untruths:
BLITZER: I guess one of the questions is, you deleted some photos from your Twitter account. Why did you do that?
WEINER: I had no idea what happened that night, and I was a little bit freaked out by it. I deleted everything.
BLITZER: Have you asked some of your followers to delete photos –
WEINER: From my Facebook account?
BLITZER: No, from your Twitter account.
WEINER: No, I haven’t. I mean, I’ll tell you what happened that night. I mean, I was literally there tweeting about hockey. For those of you who follow my Twitter, my bloody TiVo didn’t record enough time, so I missed the end of the Tampa Bay-Boston game. I’m a big hockey fan, and I tweet about hockey.
And I see this thing pop up. I immediately delete it. OK? I immediately delete the photo – I thought I deleted – I mean, I’m not a hundred percent sure – I deleted the photo and then this – this – without any password or anything, I was able to get into the account where this photograph was hosted somehow. And I deleted that and other photographs in there as well, although it was nothing very controversial in there. But I deleted everything, and I immediately tweeted “my system has been hacked.” You know, darn it.
The photo did not pop up “literally” or “immediately” as he was tweeting about hockey. His Twitter timeline (dissected thoroughly at BG by Dan Riehl here) shows a three-hour gap between the crotch shot appearance and his last previous tweet. He then made his first strange, joking reference to being “hacked” more than an hour after the photo had been tweeted out (and then deleted). But he didn’t mention Twitter or Yfrog. And he didn’t “immediately” tweet that “my system has been hacked.” What he wrote instead was that his “FB” (Facebook page) was hacked — something he hasn’t claimed publicly since.
Notice the odd, lawyer-ly reference to “the account where this photograph was hosted somehow.”
It’s the same account that he had uploaded previous photos to both directly (once) and through default Blackberry photo tweets (six times). In order to “get into the account” to “delete everything” “without any password or anything,” he’d either already have been logged on to Yfrog on his home computer with a stand-alone Yfrog email and password or would have signed in through Twitter. This is the log-on you see on the Yfrog website:
In other words: It was Weiner’s own Yfrog account, not some disembodied mystery account that “somehow” ended up with the photo that may or may not be him and may or may not be the only one of its ilk out there sent by God knows who to God knows who else.
Feel the certitude.
Sunday update: Via The Daily, Weiner had been posting to Twitter through third-party app Tweetdeck all night last Friday — and the problem pic was also posted via Tweetdeck, too — making it even more far-fetched that he was hacked. As a Tweetdeck user myself, I like the ability to view multiple streams at once on a large second monitor. Tweetdeck also makes uploading photos easy. In the far-right upper corner is the camera icon, where you can upload photos from your desktop with just one click. It looks like this:
Yfrog is the preferred default photo-sharing site for Tweetdeck, and Tweetdeck aggresively promoted Yfrog. Most users, myself included, don’t bother to change it.
Now read this:
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…according to data provided exclusively to The Daily from TweetCongress.org, a nonprofit website that captures each member of Congress’s Twitter feeds in real time, the shot seen round the world was transmitted using TweetDeck — a popular Adobe desktop application that links up with social networking sites. A review of Weiner’s Twitter stream from May 27, the day of the crotch pic, shows that Weiner had been posting only from TweetDeck — one of many ways to post messages to Twitter — that entire night.
Chet Wisniewski, a senior security adviser at security software company SophosLabs, said the TweetDeck stamp “does make it more plausible that it did come from him.”
Weiner used TweetDeck frequently, but he often also posted from the Web directly or from his BlackBerry. A widely circulated explanation for how Weiner’s Twitter account could have been hacked by email would also seem to be incompatible with the fact that the message in question originated on TweetDeck. If email had been used, the message probably would have originated via the photosharing site Yfrog, where the infamous picture was posted.
However, this information doesn’t rule out the possibility that the congressman’s Twitter account was infiltrated — as Weiner has publicly suggested. But experts say it adds another hurdle for an alibi that has come under increasing fire.
“The complexity goes up,” said Chris McCroskey, the Texas software developer who founded TweetCongress.org. The site, which has advocated the increased participation from congressmen on Twitter, aggregates and archives all the feeds of the 112th Congress from Twitter’s application programming interface. It is the only known database to do this other than the Library of Congress, which does not publicly share its data.
Robert Stribley, a senior information architect at Razorfish, a social media strategy agency, reasoned that if Weiner used the TweetDeck app, “it would probably make it less likely his account was hacked.”
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