Rep. Anthony Weiner has long had a reputation for loving the spotlight, and he did nothing to dispell that image as he lingered for a excruciatingly long time at the press conference in which he admitted to sending explicit images and messages to women on the Internet. And yet, even after 27 minutes of halting, sometimes teary-eyed confession, Weinergate questions linger.
How old were the women? When a reporter asked Weiner if any of his digital flirtations were underage, he said no. Then he admitted he wasn't sure--after all, on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. "All I know about them is what they posted about themselves on social media," Weiner said. Slowly, though, they're coming out of the woodwork--and offering embarrassing details.
Did he use congressional resources to conduct the affairs? Radar revealed that Weiner had phone sex with a least one of his contacts, she says, on his congressional phone line. The call lasted half an hour, and when the woman tried to call Weiner back on that number a few days later, she got "a recorded message that it was an outgoing U.S. Congress line only."
And Weiner might have used his staff to help a porn star he was in contact with come up with a good denial to feed the media.
Did he coach the women? TMZ reports that Weiner asked online lady friend and porn star Ginger Lee, "Do you need to talk to a professional PR type person to give u advice? I can have someone on my team call." Then, Weiner allegedly sold out his staff a little bit, adding parenthetically, "Yeah, my team is doing great. Ugh." He suggested she call the inquiries "silly," say Weiner "briefly followed me and sent me a dm saying thank you for the follow. That's it," and sprinkle the lie with "some y'alls"
Weiner then gave Lee a statement to trick reporters.
"I have nothing to do with the situation involving Rep Weiner. I follow his twitter feed. And for a brief time he followed me. Much has been made of the fact that I have posted about my admiration for Rep Weiner and his politics. All I can say about that is that I'm a fan of his. Rep. Weiner sent me one short direct message thanking me for following him. I have never met Rep. Weiner and he has never sent me anything innappopriate..."
Weiner's PR advice for Lee calls into question the denials of his other "Internet women," as the New York Daily News calls them. The statements he suggested to Lee sound a bit like the one offered by Gennette Cordova, the Seattle college student who was the intended recipient of Weiner's crotch shot, to the Daily News:
"I have never met Congressman Weiner, though I am a fan. ... I've never been to New York or to DC. ... I have seen myself labeled as the 'Femme Fatale of Weinergate,' 'Anthony Weiner's 21-year-old coed mistress' and 'the self-proclaimed girlfriend of Anthony Weiner.' ... All of this is so outlandish that I don't know whether to be pissed off or amused, quite frankly."
Will Democrats force him out? Weiner broke with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in 2006, when she was running to be speaker. She "bears him no particular love," Politico's Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman note, and on Monday, Pelosi called for an ethics committee investigation of Weiner's actions. But Weiner has some important allies as well. He was once Sen. Chuck Schumer's spokesman, and his boss "threw [Weiner] a thin lifeline," Politico says, by saying that by "fully explaining himself, apologizing to all he hurt and taking full responsibility for his wrongful actions, Anthony did the right thing." And Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, is a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and so close to the Clintons that she's "just short of being a family member."
What will his wife do? Weiner and Abedin were an unlikely couple when they began dating in 2008, The New York Times' Ashley Parker reports. Weiner is a Jewish guy from Brooklyn, Abedin is a practicing Muslim who was raised in Saudi Arabia. And while he was a loud ladies man, she was private and elegant. But though many "important people" courted Abedin, she was won over by Weiner's sense of humor and persistence. Still, Abedin did not stand by Weiner's side as he confessed to humiliating her, as so many political wives have done. She put in a full day at the State Department instead. Weiner said Abedin knew he'd had online relationships with women before they were married, but she did not know he was lying about his Twitter account being hacked.
What does it mean for Andrew Breitbart? Breitbart doesn't have a great reputation for doggedly pursuing the truth, given that he posted a video of an Agriculture Department employee, Shirley Sherrod, edited in a way that made her look like a racist, when racial understanding was the point of her speech. Breitbart, who runs BigGovernment.com and other conservative blogs, briefly took over Weiner's press conference Monday, berating the media yet also asking for legitimacy from it, The New York Times' Jeremy W. Peters and Jennifer Preston write. Breitbart partnered with ABC News by handing over his source, he says, "to take this out of the partisan rancor realm." Even some liberals who loathe Breitbart admitted Weinergate was a victory for him.