After retaining legal counsel in a case in which a lewd photo was sent from his Twitter account to a 21 year-old female college student, New York Rep. Anthony Weiner says he will no longer answer questions about the matter. The matter has become a "distraction," the outspoken Democrat told reporters Tuesday, and he intends to spend his time working on congressional matters and not answering questions about what has become known in furious Internet speculation as "Weinergate."
In a performance that might please a defense attorney but would make a public relations consultant cringe, Weiner, who has said his Twitter account was "hacked" and also that he was the victim of a "prank," one-by-one refused to answer six of the most pressing questions about the controversy:
1) Was the photo in question of Weiner himself?
You know, look, I'm not going to talk about this any more. I think that if I was giving a speech to 45,000 people, and someone stood up and heckled in the back, I wouldn't spend three days talking to him. I'm going to get back to the conversation I care about.
2) Why hire a lawyer?
I've put out a couple statements over the last couple days. I would refer you to those to answer these questions. I understand you're doing your job, but I'm going to go back to work.
3) Why not report the matter to Capitol Police?
I put out a statement about that over the last couple of days. I put out a couple of statements. I mean, I'm trying my best, I've spent a couple of days cooperating and trying to help you do your job, but at a certain point I've got to get back to work and I think we've reached that point today.
4) Was the account hacked, or was Weiner the victim of a prank?
I'm not convinced that there's any value any more of me talking about it. I understand you've got to do your job, and I'm going to get back to work. There are some enormously important things, and I believe this has been a distraction. I'm not going to let it be so any more.
5) Why was Weiner following a 21 year-old college student on Twitter?
I appreciate the questions. I understand you're doing your job but this is now a couple of days later, I've got to finally get back to work and focus on things I want to focus on.
6) Is Weiner concerned about the security of Facebook and Twitter accounts?
I'm going to return to working on things that I care about. I've participated in the story a couple of days now, given comments on it. This is a distraction and I'm not going to let it distract me.
Near the end of the news conference, a reporter said to Weiner, "This distraction might go away if you answered some of the questions that are out there." A pensive looking Weiner quickly responded: "I'm not convinced of that. I'm not convinced of that."
At the moment, there is no publicly available proof either that Weiner sent the photo or that he was the victim of hackers. Weiner has expressed a desire to "move on." But many members of Congress have Facebook and Twitter accounts, and the possibility that those accounts could be sabotaged by someone seeking to destroy a politcian's career is troubling. For that reason alone, it seems likely that public officials, if not Anthony Weiner himself, will want to know more about what really happened in this case.