While I share Amanda Marcotte’s frustration with the prurient media circus that developed around Weiner-gate—and truly, I find few people as odious as Andrew Breitbart—I’m puzzled by Amanda’s contention that Weiner is the victim of an anti-sex “free-for-all of rooting through politicians’ trashcans to make sure their private sex lives adhere to someone else’s standards.”
I’m not here to be a prude. If Congressman Anthony Weiner was plumber Joe Smith and digital exhibitionism was his personal kink, pursued inside his own home and without misleading his wife, I’d be the first one to stand up and defend his right to privacy.
But let’s face it—any public figure who indulges this particular fetish is asking for trouble. Let’s review exactly what Weiner did. Over the course of several years, he repeatedly met strange women online and then proceeded to consensually swap semi-nude photos, sexts, explicit e-mail and Facebook messages, and occasionally engaged in phone sex with them.
In the case of Meagan Broussard, the Texas mom who just happened to have ties to an as-yet unnamed Republican political activist, Weiner reached out to her at 3 pm on a Thursday; a photo he sent her depicts him sitting at a desk. He seems to have had phone sex from his Congressional office two days earlier with another woman, Lisa Weiss, just before he went down to the House floor to vote on a healthcare bill.
Weiner is a well-known workaholic. I’m not suggesting that he ever failed to fulfill his duties as a representative of New York’s 9th district. And it isn’t illegal to have phone sex from one’s Congressional office. But what sort of mature, adult professional carries on in this manner during business hours, with one’s staff just outside the office door? Not one with his priorities in order.
How did Weiner finally get caught? Due to his own stupidity when, on May 27, he miscoded a direct message containing a photograph of his crotch. Instead of sending the photo to Gennette Cordova, a Seattle college student, he blasted it to his public Twitter feed.
At that moment, Weiner lost any tenuous claim to privacy he may have had. (Remember, he was already aware that five women across the country possessed indiscreet photos of him. He was playing with fire.) I’m no fan of our debased and decadent media culture—heck, I usually write about education policy!—but I think that in America in 2011, it is simply absurd to suggest that the media not ask questions about a photo of an erect penis blasted out over a Congressman’s Twitter feed.
Nor does it appear that Weiner’s online hijinks were okay with his wife, Huma Abedin. At his press conference Monday, Weiner said he had lied to her about the chain of events until that very morning, claiming his account had been hacked. In fact, Abedin’s lack of approval was likely a major motivation behind Weiner’s public cover-up attempts, as well. While Abedin may have known that Weiner participated in such activities before he met her, there is no indication whatsoever that this was some sort of shared, agreed-upon sexual fetish within their marriage.
Amanda worries that scandals like this one will keep good people who just happen to like non-normative sex from going into politics. I have to say, I’m not too worried. If people who can’t get through the workday without from-the-office phone sex don’t run for Congress in the future, I think the Republic will survive.
Read Amanda Marcotte’s response "On Weinergate: Before Throwing Stones…"