- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The story of Rep. Anthony D. Weiner keeps getting weirder and weirder.

One day after vowing not to talk about the lewd photo sent from his Twitter account to a Seattle college student, the New York Democrat went on the offensive Wednesday, saying flatly: “I didn’t send that picture out” and that it was the work of a hacker. But he also said he couldn’t say “with certitude” that the photo wasn’t him.

The feisty, often combative New Yorker then took an uncharacteristically passive stance in declaring he would not seek a federal investigation of the alleged hacker whose work could sully his name. Hacking into a social media account, such as Facebook or Twitter, is illegal.

Mr. Weiner dismissed the incident as a “prank” unworthy of law enforcement’s time. He did say he hired an attorney to advise him and a private security firm to investigate the incident.

“If it turns out there’s something larger going on here, we’ll take the requisite steps,” said the 46-year-old lawmaker.

In interviews with NBC and CNN, he said reporters and bloggers were making too much of the matter.

“When your name is ‘Weiner,’ that happens a lot,” he said. “Sometimes things are what they appear.”

Mr. Weiner pushed back against questions about the nature of his relationship with the college woman who was sent the tightly cropped shot of a man’s crotch clad in gray underwear.

“I don’t know her, she doesn’t know me,” said Mr. Weiner, who is married to Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Former President Bill Clinton officiated the marriage last July.

Democratic strategist Steve McMahon told the Associated Press that the congressman botched the first rule of crisis communications: getting out the facts as soon as possible.

“His answers have raised more questions than they’ve resolved,” Mr. McMahon said. “I’m amazed somebody as smart and media savvy as he is can’t see the impact of how he’s handled it.”

Mr. Weiner - considered a contender in the 2013 New York City mayor’s race - predicted that the internal investigation would clear up the matter. “We’re going to find out what happened,” he said.

Twitter spokesman Robert Weeks said Wednesday that the company doesn’t answer questions about security breaches on individual accounts, but that the Weiner case is an example of why Twitter users should guard their passwords.

“Reports of the past few days are a good reminder of the importance of actively protecting your account credentials,” he wrote in an email.

Computer security specialists say data logs at the San Francisco-based Twitter would allow investigators to quickly pinpoint the unique Internet address from which the photo originated.

Sgt. Kimberly Schneider of the Capitol Police said she was getting calls from reporters about the story but otherwise had not been contacted about the security breach.

“We don’t have an open, active investigation,” she said.

The sexually suggestive photo was posted Friday and sent to the student in Seattle. The tweet of the photo first was reported Saturday by BigGovernment.com, a website run by conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart.

Mr. Breitbart is also known for posting a video of an Agriculture Department employee, Shirley Sherrod, giving a speech that when edited by Mr. Breitbart made it appear she was making racist comments.

The photo on Mr. Weiner’s account was quickly deleted, but it set off a torrent of speculative buzz.

Mr. Weiner told reporters he had been tweeting about the National Hockey League playoffs when he spotted the offending tweet.

“I saw it,” Mr. Weiner told reporters at the Capitol. “I deleted it.”

Mr. Weiner said he misjudged the furor that the photo would cause.

Mr. Weiner has not explained why he was following the student on Twitter, one of 198 people he follows on the social media site. Mr. Weiner is one of the more prolific tweeters in Congress and has more than 50,000 followers, a number that grew over the past two days.

The woman has been identified by media outlets as Gennette Cordova. Despite calls to phone numbers and messages to an email address, she could not be reached for comment by the Associated Press.

Miss Cordova told the New York Daily News that the offending photo was sent from a hacker who has “harassed me many times after the congressman followed me on Twitter a month or so ago.”

Miss Cordova also told the Daily News that she never had met Mr. Weiner and there had “never been any inappropriate exchanges” between her and the congressman.

This article is based in part on wire reports.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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