Social media are becoming part of political life — and political scandal. This time around, focus is on New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, a rising star in the Democratic Party and an outspoken member of the House of Representatives.
Weiner is caught in a firestorm over a photo sent via his verified Twitter account to one of his Twitter followers, 21-year-old college student Gennette Cordova of Bellingham, Washington. The image, sent via a Twitter image transmission service, Yfrog, was sent over the Twitter timeline so that anyone could see it. It was unclear whether it was meant to be sent solely as a direct message just to Cordova.
When asked Wednesday during an interview with NBC’s Luke Russert whether the image was of him, Weiner replied, “I can’t say with certitude. “ He added, “My system was hacked. Pictures can be manipulated. Pictures can be dropped in and inserted.”
Weiner insisted that he did not send the waist-down photo of a man’s bulging underpants. “We know for sure I didn’t send this photograph,” he told reporters in Washington, according to the Associated Press.
But when pressed by reporters whether it was him in the offending photo, Weiner could not offer a clear denial. “We don’t know where the photograph came from,” he said. “We don’t know for sure what’s on it.”
The controversy first heated up Tuesday when reporters pressed him for answers during a press conference outside his congressional office. Weiner became irate when continually asked to verify whether the image was of him, why he did not call Capitol Police to investigate the claim of it being a hacker and why he “followed” back many women on Twitter.
He did not directly answer. He insisted he wanted to stick to the issues and not get sidetracked by a prankster. CNN reported Monday that the FBI and Capitol Police has no plans to investigate the hacking accusation.
Several news sites have noted that while Weiner is followed by over 50,000 followers, he only follows 198 accounts back and several of those are attractive women who are not political journalists, elected officials and other public figures. One strategist told the Washington Post this morning that the controversy may taint Weiner’s bid for the New York City mayoral race when three term mayor Michael Bloomberg steps aside at the end of his term.
In 2008, a 20-year-old University of Tennessee student, David Kernell, was sentenced for hacking into Sarah Palin’s Yahoo account.
Weiner was recently married to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s longtime assistant, Huma Abedin.