Rep. Anthony Weiner admitted that the photo of a man's crotch posted on Twitter last week was of the congressman in a press conference Monday. Weiner teared up in a press conference in which he said he'd had sexually-explicit exchanges with about six women over the last three years. He never met them in person and so did not have physical relationships with them. Weiner explained that he'd meant to send a direct message to a woman when he accidentally posted the photo on Twitter, and then "panicked." He deleted the tweet and claimed that he'd been hacked, and that he stuck to that story. "I'm deeply ashamed of my terrible judgment," he said, but he's not resigning.
"I was embarrassed and I didn't want it to lead to more embarrassing thing," Weiner said. "It was a dumb thing to do to lie about it because it led to more embarrassment." Weiner said his wife, Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, has known about his online relationships with women Weiner met through Facebook since before their marriage. But she did not know until Monday morning that Weiner was lying about a Twitter hack. Reporters asked why Abedin was not at the press conference, a humiliating routine many political wives have subjected themselves to as their husbands admitted to infidelity. Weiner said simply that she was not there, that she was disappointed, but that she loved him and wanted their marriage to survive.
Who were the women? Weiner isn't sure. "I don't know the exact ages of the women," Weiner said, "but they're all adults. At least, to the best of my knowledge, they're adults... All I know about them is what they posted about themselves on social media." Shortly after the press conference, ABC News published its interview with one of the women, Meagan Broussard, a 26-year-old single mom from Texas.
Broussard says her digital relationship with Weiner intensified quickly and lasted a month. Her first interaction with the congressman came after she "liked" a YouTube clip of one of his speeches on his Facebook page and commented "hottttt" on the link. Weiner "almost immediately" friended Broussard on Facebook, and they started messaging. Broussard says she doesn't think Weiner is "a bad guy." After figuring out who he was, though, she told some friends--including one with "Republican ties." He encouraged her to leak the exchanges to Breitbart.
Remarkably, one reporter managed to make Weiner not look like the biggest jerk the room, yelling questions like "Will you support Arnold's love child?" and "Were you fully erect?!"
Weiner's press conference opened, bizarrely, with a statement from his conservative nemesis, Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart defended his reporting against allegations that he'd been fooled by a hacker, and denied that he was getting revenge against the Democratic congressman for Rep. Chris Lee, a Republican who was forced to resign after his shirtless pic was posted. Breitbart also insisted that he still had a photo of Weiner that "suffice to say it's of an X-rated nature."
Breitbart made himself out to be the victim in his statement before reporters, saying he was fielding phone calls the whole time he was on vacation, and that conservative reporters are held to a higher standard. As many reporters were scratching their heads trying to figure out why Weiner's press conference would open with a Breitbart statement, Lizzie O'Leary asked a good question: "Can someone show me an official release from Weiner's office announcing this press conference?" Was the press just fooled by another Breitbart prank?
No, Chris Cillizza reports. This press conference was the real deal--or it was supposed to be. Ahead of the conference, a Weiner staffer reportedly ran through the hall of the Sheraton hotel, yelling, "Breitbart is here!" A few minutes after the Breitbart confusion, Weiner eventually took the podium.
Video of Breitbart's temporary takeover of the press conference:
Video of Weiner's initial statement: