Ever wonder what our nation looks like to folks from afar? Here we look at how a uniquely American story--the kind of news we have trouble explaining even to ourselves--is being told overseas. Want to see a particular topic covered here? Let us know.
Up until yesterday, foreign newspapers were largely uninterested in Weinergate, with just a few giving the bizarre story a mention. But Anthony Weiner's extraordinary press conference, in which he admitted that, in fact, he did send photos of himself to young women online, tipped the scales in the global news judgement. Now the foreign papers are officially just as weirded out as the American press. In China, the government's Xinhua site played up the foolishness of Weiner with the headline, "US Congressman Weiner admits 'dumb' exchange with women." They note the admission came "after week of sometimes indignant public denials and insistence that he was the victim of an Internet hacker. ... He said he had never met or had a physical relationship with any of the women and was not even sure of their ages." Last night Bill O'Reilly (who's had his own embarrassing sex scandal) said the whole affair "makes the United States look bad." On this one, we're going to have to agree. Here are some other ways this story is being explained overseas.
They Do This in America Apparently
"The name of the picture was 'package.jpg,'" begins Michael König, attempting to tell the full story to readers of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. He covers the full tale, complete with apology to Andrew Breitbart. "Actually Weiner's case isn't all that serious compared to other American sex scandals," writes König, mentioning John Edwards's legal troubles regarding the coverup with Rielle Hunter. This sentiment would seem to be echoed in El País Washington correspondent Yolanda Monge's headline for her Spanish audience: "Another Congressman, another sex scandal." She opens by saying that "the saga of Weinergate had, late Monday in New York, its most dramatic and almost pathetic staging yet," exaggerating slightly when she says that Weiner admitted "between sobs," that he had lied. "The whole story was very confusing," she says simply of his previous statements alleging hacking.
Explaining Penis Jokes
Die Welt's coverage, using some AFP material, really tries to close a culture gap.
It's ironic that in English the last name Weiner is pronounced like Wiener wurst [wiener dog]. "Wiener" is in American slang a term for the male sex organ. The U.S. media is calling the affair, in a play on the Watergate scandal, "Weinergate."
Anthony Weiner--whose name in English is pronounced in the same way as the sausages used in hot-dogs and which is also a synonym for penis--has been the target of a number of sarcastic comments in the American media since the [story began] early last week.
Russia Delves into the Details
NTV correspondent Alexei Veselovsky points out that the really racy photos aren't even public, and includes a quote from one of the women, Megan Broussard, saying Weiner always wanted to know if she liked the photos he was sending her. "Actually," writes Veselovsky, presumably recalling the wacky press conference, "the confession itself was excessive." Adds Maxim Makarychev of the Rossiiskaya Gazeta, "by the way, he's one of the most popular bloggers in Congress. He has more than 50,000 regular readers." (The language is a little unclear here, but we think Makarychev is talking about Weiner's Twitter account.)
Sweet! They've Temporarily Moved on From Strauss-Kahn!
"The democrat Anthony Weiner, new target of the New York tabloids," proclaims French paper Le Monde's headline. "France is obsessed with the DSK affair," leads the Le Monde-AFP collaboration. "But in the United States, the dossieir of the former general director of the IMF has been relegated in the tabloids, replaced by the Anthony Weiner affair."
Philippe Coste, correspondent for the French L'Express, talks of "two American diversions": "After four days of frenzy following the first apprehension of the suspect on May 16, the papers knew to protect themselves from their readers' 'DSK fatigue,'" moving on to the Arnold Schwarzenegger love child story," Coste writes. "Another event offers a salutary diversion," he continues, summarizing the Weiner affair. "But this debacle," he concludes, "can't rival the purgatory of the ex-head of the IMF." Upon reflection, he's probably right. Still, that was one hell of a press conference. Can Breitbart hijack Strauss-Kahn's, next?
Heather Horn is fluent in written German and French, and proficient in written Arabic. All other languages are muddled through with the help of Google Translate.