Weinergate in the Media

N.Y. congressman has friends, foes, and those just looking for a scoop

New York Congressman Anthony Weiner finally put to rest swirling rumors about a now infamous NSFW image that appeared on the politician’s Twitter feed on May 27. At a news conference yesterday, Weiner admitted not only to sending the salacious gray boxer briefs snapshot, but also to exchanging "messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years."

This is the kind of scandal that has the talking heads chomping at the bit. Come one, come all, from the right-wingers to the bleeding hearts, from the comedians to the politicians-cum-television personalities, the media circus has arrived. Fair and balanced is on vacation. Here are coverage highlights from some of television’s most familiar faces, in order of angst:

MSNBC’s Ed Schultz was disappointed in Weiner, in that fatherly kind of way. The liberal commentator told the congressman, "If you believe in yourself, you will resign." Schultz’s gripe with the congressman was not about the wrongful acts he committed, rather his handling of the scandal. The MSNBC pundit went on to recognize Weiner’s great relationship with "media folk," but said the politician’s beloved persona would not be enough to circumvent real consequences, calling Weiner’s approach to the scandal "a little too arrogant."

Fox’s Bill O’Reilly seems fatigued with the Weiner story, not quite giving everything you’d expect from an opinionated personality. O’Reilly’s angle was religion and restitution. As a Catholic, O’Reilly said he believes everyone sins and confession is a part of the healing process. However, he wants to know what exactly the politician plans to do to make it up to the country. Best line of O’Reilly’s reaction: "I hate this story."

In typical late-night style, CBS’ David Letterman went for the cheap shots. His top 10 list of the evening, "Questions to ask yourself before tweeting your deal," featured all of the, pardon the pun, below-the-belt jokes that one would expect from Letterman.

ABC’s Chris Cuomo’s coverage of the brouhaha comes in a relatively neutral spot on the angsty coverage countdown. ABC managed to land an interview with one of the “Weiner Six,” Meaghan Broussard. Cuomo said ABC came into contact with Broussard via Andrew Breitbart of BigGovernment.com, the man responsible for shedding light on the scope of the Weiner scandal. Cuomo had a gum-chewing Broussard react on camera to images that Weiner had sent her. Dramatic editing (in reaction to one image Broussard said, "Scary, I didn't like seeing his face. Looks like he's going to kill me.") gave the interview a bit of a "To Catch a Predator" vibe.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow also kept a relatively even keel in her report of the story. First she focused on why Weiner was well-liked by liberals and then launched into an "empirical" look at the recent history of United States politicians' indiscretions. Her "Consequence-o-meter" used an x-axis of less to more prosecutable and a y-axis of less to more creepy to chart Weiner’s predecessors in the politician scandal sphere. Maddow placed the congressman himself high on the creepy scale and low on the prosecutable axis. His placement earned him a spot not far from Arnold Schwarzenegger and his hidden love child.

Moving into the more sympathetic realm is former New York governor and CNN commentator Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer said, "[Weiner's press conference] was the kind of moment that neither politicians nor journalists should be proud of, and believe me, I know. I’ve been there, and I’ve held both jobs."

What’s a scandal among friends? Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart largely took the burden off of his real-life friend by employing a healthy dose of self-deprecation. Stewart focused on his buddy’s ripped chest (James Franco could get stuck in the muscled crevasses) and Breitbart’s bizarre pre-press conference, press conference.