Weiner denies he sent lewd photo
WASHINGTON — Representative Anthony Weiner of New York denied yesterday that he sent a lewd photo from his Twitter account to a female college student but did little to calm the media storm when he said he could not say “with certitude’’ that the man in the photo wasn’t him.
After a combative news conference on Tuesday in which Weiner refused to answer any questions about the incident, the Democratic lawmaker spent yesterday in a series of interviews trying to explain the situation. But some answers — and his attempts at humor — only stirred up the situation further.
“We know for sure I didn’t send this photograph,’’ the seven-term congressman told reporters in the Capitol. But he told MSNBC he “can’t say with certitude’’ that the photo of a waist-down view showing a man’s bulging underpants wasn’t him.
Pressed by reporters about whether it was him in the offending photo, Weiner said: “We don’t know where the photograph came from. We don’t know for sure what’s on it.’’
And then the colorful congressman could not resist several double entendres, explaining why he did not report the alleged hacking to Capitol Police.
“I’m not sure I want to put national, federal resources into trying to figure out who posted a picture on Weiner’s website, uh, whatever. I’m not really sure it rises, no pun intended, to that level.’’
Later, he quipped that maybe the alleged hacking was just “the point of Al Qaeda’s sword.’’
Despite his denial, questions lingered about the incident.
Weiner said he had hired a private security firm to investigate the alleged hacking and an attorney to advise him on what civil or criminal actions should be taken.
“If it turns out there’s something larger going on here, we’ll take the requisite steps,’’ he told reporters.
There were also questions about why the congressman, married recently to an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was following the college student on Twitter.
The sexually suggestive photo was posted Friday and sent to the student. The tweet of the lewd photo first was reported Saturday by BigGovernment.com, a website run by conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart.
Breitbart is also known for posting a video of an Agriculture Department employee, Shirley Sherrod, giving a speech that when edited by Breitbart made it appear that she was making racist comments.
The photo on Weiner’s account was quickly deleted, but it set off a torrent of speculative buzz.
Weiner told reporters he had been tweeting about the NHL playoffs when he spotted the offending tweet. “I saw it,’’ Weiner told reporters at the Capitol. “I deleted it.’’
Weiner has not explained why he was following the student on Twitter, one of 198 people he follows on the social media site. Weiner is one of the more prolific tweeters in Congress and he 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 multiple calls to phone numbers and an e-mail address for Cordova, she could not be reached for comment by The Associated Press.
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.’’
Cordova also told the Daily News she never had met Weiner, and that there had “never been any inappropriate exchanges’’ between her and the congressman.
Weiner, 46, married Clinton aide Huma Abedin last July, with President Clinton officiating. Before that, Weiner had been known as one of New York’s most eligible bachelors.
Weiner failed in a 2005 bid for the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York City but is considered a likely front-runner in the race to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg when the mayor’s third and final term ends in 2013.
Weiner is the third New York congressman in little over a year to be caught up in a scandal. Republican Representative Chris Lee resigned earlier this year after shirtless photos he sent to a woman surfaced online. Democratic Representative Eric Massa resigned in March 2010 amid a sexual harassment scandal.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a memo yesterday that his agency will not designate any of those public lands as “wild lands.’’ Instead Salazar said officials will work with Congress to develop recommendations for managing millions of acres of undeveloped land.
Salazar’s decision reverses an order issued in December to restore eligibility for wilderness protection to millions of acres of public lands. That policy overturned a Bush-era approach that opened some Western lands to commercial development.
A budget deal approved by Congress prevented the Interior Department from spending money to implement the wilderness policy. GOP lawmakers complained that the plan would circumvent Congress’ authority and could be used to declare a vast swath of public land off-limits to oil and gas drilling.