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June 11, 2011

Things We Wish People Would STOP Saying About 'Weinergate'

We're sure we don't have to explain to you what "Weinergate" is. You can't open a paper or click a website without seeing some reference to it. And we've just about had it. 

We don't necessarily want to defend Anthony Weiner. We think what he did was stupid and dishonest, but we're starting to get kind of sick of the way that the media is framing this story. So, maybe's he's more of a sleazy jerk than we originally thought (although, really, aren't most politicians?) ... why is this headline news? While we are not defending what he did on a personal level, we do think that this is more of a personal issue, than a political one. Personally, we wouldn't want to marry the guy, but politically, we support Weiner because his voting record speaks for itself.It's not that we don't think the personal sometimes plays a role in the political... it's just that until we have some more information giving us a concrete reason to believe that his indiscretions actually matter, we're not going to jump on the anti-Weiner bandwagon.

Regardless of how we feel about the current "scandal", we've found ourselves becoming increasingly irritated by some of the comments we've heard lately. So in typical ESC-fashion, here is our Top 10 list of things we wish people would just STOP saying and doing regarding "Weinergate"...

1. Calling it "Weinergate".

...Or making hilarious puns about the word "weiner".

Okay, okay, we get it. His name is Weiner. Weiner weiner weiner! Is it out of your system yet? Come on, we're not in junior high school. Grow up.

2. Calling Anthony Weiner a "pervert".

In general, we've been pretty sick of people calling other people "perverts" because of their sexual preferences for a long time now. There is such a wide spectrum of stuff out there that one might be turned on by... It's very likely that almost everyone has at least one thing they like that someone else would consider weird, but the odds are it's not as uncommon as you think. But the stuff that Weiner has done isn't even really that weird or uncommon. Since when is sending a naughty text or a dirty photo perverted? It's basically the most mainstream vanilla version of "perverted" we've ever heard of. Sexting is so popular we have to warn our teenagers not to do it. It's not even an actual affair! This is the most sexless "sex scandal" ever

In 2011 can we really call Weiner a pervert? Call him a cheater or a bad husband, but not a pervert. This is such classic case of sex shaming and slut shaming, yet he didn't even get to have any actual sex. Even the texts and messages themselves aren't that outrageous. Pretty much the standard online dirty talk. [For a hilarious reenactment, just to show how ridiculous sexts sounds out of context, no matter how tame, click here]. I've heard (and received) much worse.

(Also, can we stop saying that he publicly tweeted pictures of his "exposed genitalia". Sorry, but no. It was one close-up shot of his underwear. Maybe that distinction doesn't mean much to most of you, but let's at least be accurate here.)

3. Calling Anthony Weiner a "sexual predator".

Some people have been grasping at straws trying to find ways to paint Weiner as the same kind of hypocrite as say Eliot Spitzer (who was the "tough-on-prostituion" attorney general, yet later found to be soliciting call girls) or Newt Gingrich (who was cheating on his wife while leading the probe into the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair). So far all they've been able to come up with is the Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act (or KIDS Act) of 2007, which Weiner co-sponsored.

An excerpt from Attorney Mike Young's Internet Lawyer Blog:
But here’s a great quote from the Weiner about his interest in stopping Internet predators
“Sadly, the Internet is the predator’s venue of choice today. We need to update our strategies and our laws to stop these offenders who are a mere click away from our children.” Anthony Weiner
[...] Anthony Weiner doesn’t know if any of his communications have been with minors either. If so, would he qualify as the same type of Internet sexual predator he’s pontificating against in legislation and related press releases?
Of course, now that he’s said he’s sorry (that he got caught), Weiner considers this to be a resume enhancer and refuses to resign from office. Perhaps he will continue with his plans to run for New York City Mayor.

I won’t pretend to be the moral police. But then again, neither should Anthony Weiner.
Um, no. Comparing Anthony Weiner to a sexual predator is a quite a stretch. Even if any of the women he (consensually) corresponded with were lying about their ages and were in fact minors (unlikely, but absolutely possible) that doesn't make him a PREDATOR. If you want to call him a liar or a cheater, fine, but the fact that he wanted to protect children by requiring sex offenders to register their email/IM addresses does not make him a hypocrite. Weiner isn't a sex offender, nor is what he did illegal in anyway. Maybe it's immoral (that's a judgment call) but despite the author's claims, Weiner has never tried to be the moral police. In fact, he has a strong record of voting in ways that do not police the sexual rights of others.

As far as we know, so far, none of the women that Anthony Weiner had online contact with claim to have been harassed or otherwise victimized. With the exception of Genette Cordova, the journalism student who allegedly received the original photograph on Twitter, each of these women have been purported to have had consensual online "relationships" with Weiner. (It's unclear where Cordova comes into all this, she claims she doesn't know Weiner at all. It's possible that the photo was sent to her accidentally, as it's obvious that it was made public by the mistake. She does not claim to have been victimized.)

4. Obsessing over the fact that he lied, instead of focusing on why he lied.

Yes, lying is bad, we know that. And from a PR standpoint, it was pretty dumb move. The most imporant thing during a crisis is transparency... But really, can anyone actually blame him for lying? He wasn't questioned about anything related to his career, so why should he be obligated to answer honestly? Whose business is it if he tweets crotch-shots to consenting adults?

Of course, it's his own fault that this topic became public... because he goofed and made what should've been a private message public. But when a private matter becomes public unexpectely, can you really blame someone for trying to keep it private? If someone asked me about something I didn't think was their business, I'd probably lie too. If I actually made it their business by mistake? I might still lie. Sure he should have told the truth right away, but he was embarrassed... sometimes I think we have to judge someone's behavior on a case-by-case basis. Does lying to hide an online affair that is nobody's business mean you're a liar or does it just mean you lied? (Semantics, sure... but just go with us on this one for a minute.)

Has Anthony Weiner ever lied about something that actually matters to the public? Has he lied about anything that is even remotely of importance to the American people? 

5. Publicly posting (and re-posting) the leaked photographs of him and other private details.

Yeah, that means you Andrew Breitbart. And that means you Opie & Anthony. And any of Weiner's online "girlfriends" who apparently saved all their old messages waiting for the opportunity to sell their stories. (If we had a dollar for every photo of actually exposed genitalia we had received from men over the years, we'd be wealthy women. Yet we have never shown any of these photos to other people, let alone posted them for the world to see.) And any of the "sources" who leaked to the press that Huma Abedin is reportedly pregnant. Apparently the couple has neither the right to sexual privacy, nor physical or medical privacy. Hopefully karma will come back to bite all these sleazebags in the asses.

Amanda Marcotte made a great point about how dangerous these invasions of privacy can actually be in the long run:
There are two main concerns when personal choices---or even failings---become a matter of public interest, even if it doesn’t affect the public. One is that it opens the door to real witch hunts where no one is truly safe, and the other is that it will degrade the quality of the actual work people are doing that actually does affect the public.
[...] Once the standard for a sex scandal moves from “public interest” to “arbitrarily deciding this person’s behavior is gross/immature/offends Jesus”, it’s open season. Today the crime is not following the standards of monogamy set by those outside your marriage (since we don’t know the details of Weiner’s relationship with his wife, these are the only standards really in play). Tomorrow, it could be that your personal behavior offends people who don’t approve of premarital sex or who think it’s gross or silly for adults to play little private games with each other.  
[...] If these new standards come in to play, it will mean a drastic reduction in the number of people willing to risk running for office---or be activists or writers or anyone that Andrew Breitbart deems interesting enough to start a harassment campaign against. Sensible people, realizing their sex lives will be an open book, will choose careers that don’t attract the attention of witch hunters. Unfortunately, those sensible people are exactly the kind of people we need more of in politics, having already ceded so much ground to the Bible-thumpers and people who believe that Obama is starting secret campaigns to confiscate guns and kill old people. [AlterNet]

6. Criticizing his wife for choosing to stay with him and/or blaming her for his actions.

First Chris Matthews said that Huma Abedin partly responsible. Then journalists questioned whether she would seek advice from Hillary Clinton, jumping at the opportunity to rehash the Clinton scandal. When stories that she was going to "stand by her man" started going live, people jumped to trash her for being weak or stupid or trying to please others. The Good Wife references have been thrown around quit a bit. Then "sources" leaked that she is pregnant and everyone began speculating on a whole new level.

Look, we're not inside their marriage. We don't know how they feel about each other or what they're going through. We can't read her mind to know why she loves Weiner or whether she will in fact stay with him during this scandal. It's certainly not our business to judge anyone else's private decisions.

7. Being hypocritical about their own prior actions.

Okay, a few questions for you all to ask yourselves...

How many of you have ever tweeted or emailed or texted or instant messaged (or used Facebook, made a personal phone call, etc.) for your place of business while you should have been working? Then you don't have a right to question or bitch about whether Weiner sent these messages while "on the job". (He claims he never used government resources.)

How many of you have ever tweeted or emailed or texted or instant messaged something "erotic" or sexual in nature? How many of you have tweeted or emailed or texted or instant messaged a "lewd" or "inappropriate" photo?  Then you don't get to call Weiner a pervert or make fun of him now that his messages have been made public.

How many of you have ever cheated on a significant other? How many of you have ever had a non-physical, but probably inappropriate relationship with someone who wasn't your significant other? How many of you have flirted or spoken sexually with someone who wasn't your significant other? Then you don't get to criticize Weiner for being a cheater or a "sleaze bag" or a bad husband.

How many of you have ever lied to coverup a personal mistake? How many of you have ever lied to protect your privacy? How many of you have ever lied when someone asked you a question that was none of their damn business? How many of you have lied for any self-serving reason? Then you don't get to criticize Weiner for being a "liar".

Okay, so now think about that when you're trashing Anthony Weiner. Unless you're truly the perfect and holy beings you claim to be, why don't you just shut the fuck up. Speaking of hypocrisy...

8. Treating Weiner's actions as if they were far worse than they really are.

Actual, real headline: "Schwarzenegger, Edwards or Weiner: Who's the worst?" [KGW.comReally? How can Weiner, who hasn't even had actual sex with anyone besides his wife, even be put in the same categories as Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Edwards, both of whom allegedly impregnated their mistresses and the latter of whom was also indicted on six felony charges.

We are so sick of people comparing Weiner's "sex scandal" (can you even call it that?) to those of the likes of Schwarzenegger, Edwards, Elliot Spitzer, or Tiger Woods, etc. It's not even comparable. Weiner hasn't had any extramarital sex, let alone sex with prostitutes. He hasn't done anything illegal, he has no secret children, he's not accused of abuse or harassment. It's not the same thing!

A lot of Republicans, while calling for Weiner's resignation, have been conveniently forgetting the vast amount of considerably worse offenses that members of their party have done... Among Republic Senators, Representatives and other officials between 2000 - 2011 there have been over a dozen alleged extramarital affairs (about half of which were with staffers or employees), three alleged sexual assaults or rape, at least eight criminal arrests (most of which resulted in convictions), seven prostitution-related scandals, over ten gay-related scandals, over eight scandals involving minors, a minimum of three illegitimate children, and at least one allegation of partner abuse. [1, 2; Note: These numbers are not exact, they are probably higher.]
        Only two incidents from the Right are even remotely similar to that of Anthony Weiner's predicament: In 2011, the married Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY), who had strongly promoted "family values", sent shirtless photos and flirtatious emails to women via Craigslist from his congressional email and in 2006, Rep Mark Foley (R-FL) was accused of sending sexually explicit emails to male congressional pages, some of whom were underage. But so far we haven't seen any headlines that read "Lee, Foley or Weiner: Who's the worst?"

        9. Calling for his resignation.

        What exactly has Weiner done that would indicate that he's unable to do his job? He lied about a personal matter, unrelated to politics and sort of cheated on his wife... but well, there are plenty of people who have done that and don't feel the need to quit their jobs. And there are plenty of politicians who have done things far worse and didn't resign (at least for some time). A partial sampling:
        • Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) - After his extramarital affair became public in June 2009, he stepped down from his post as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, but said that he did not plan to resign from the Senate. That July he announced his plan to run for re-election in 2012. Pending an investigation of the Ethics Committee, he later chose not to run for re-election and eventually resigned in May of 2011. 
        • Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY) - His extramarital affair with a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel (that had resulted in a three-year-old child) became public after a DUI arrest in May 2008. He chose to serve out the remainder of his term, which ended in January 2009, but did not run for re-election. 
        • Sen. Larry Craig (R-Id.) - In June 2007, Craig was arrested at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on suspicion of lewd conduct in a men's restroom, after allegedly soliciting an undercover police officer. He plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and announced his intent to resign in September 2007. After unsuccessfully attempting to withdraw his guilty plea, he decided to serve out his Senate term until January 2009. He did not seek re-election. 
        • Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA) - In 2005, Sherwood's opponents released a police report that implicated him in the choking of a woman, with whom he eventually admitted to having a five-year extramarital affair. (She later filed a $5.5 million lawsuit against him, accusing him of repeated assaulting and abusing her.) He received strong support from Republican leaders in the 2006 Republic primary in his district, but eventually was not re-elected, as he lost the final election to the Democractic candidate. 
        • Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-Id.) - Despite being one of the first to call for Bill Clinton's resignation over the Lewinksy affair, she admitted that she had carried on a six-year illicit affair with a married man. Her defense? "I have asked for God's forgiveness and I have received it." She stayed in office until 2000.
        • Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga) - Former Speaker of the House, Gingrich has cheated on not one, but two wives - one of whom he divorced while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery, according to his ex; the other he cheated on while he was investigating Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. He blamed his infidelities on how hard he worked and how much he loved his country. Now he's actually trying to be the 2012 GOP presidential candidate!
        • Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) - In July 2007, it was revealed that Vitter had been a client of the prostitution service of the "D.C. Madam". He stated that he had "asked for and received forgiveness from God". He ran for re-election in 2010 and won and  is still serving in the Senate with no intention of resigning.
        The Republican  National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has called for Weiner to resign, but when questioned about whether there's a double standard at play by calling for Weiner's reignation but not that of David Vitter, Priebus refused to even discuss it. Apparently Democratic politicians should be held to a higher ethical standard than Republican politicians.

        10. Ignoring the "bigger news" that we should be talking about instead of this.

        Um, does anyone remember that we're in the middle of an economic crisis? How about the fact that there's a civil war going on in Libya? How about the situation in Japan? ...or the fact that both Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann might want to run for president? ...or global warming? ...or Jennifer Aniston's secret for toned arms? There are a zillion other things we could and should be talking about right now.

        We're extremeley frustrated by the fact that the media is giving his non-story so much attention. Oh... crap. Now we've done it too!

        Let's just all stop right now, okay?


        KB said...

        I agree with this completely.
        A question for the people calling for his resignation:

        Has any Congressman or woman ever picked up the office phone, called their spouse and asked what's for dinner? Can you wear that cute thing I got you for our anniversary?

        Guess what?

        That's a personal use of government property and time. It's time for you to go too.

        loriadorable said...

        You know, I usually agree with you guys, but in this case.... You might want to read this article: http://www.salon.com/news/anthony_weiner_dny/index.html?story=/mwt/feature/2011/06/10/anthony_weiner_harassment

        THE EVIL SLUT CLIQUE said...

        We understand that viewpoint, but we have to disagree. As we said under #3, based on our understanding of what happened, Weiner sent the photo to Cordova by mistake. Cordova herself has said that she does not feel she was harassed by Weiner, so we have a hard time labeling him a harasser or predator until some new information backs that up.

        Freida Bee said...

        You have put what I've been thinking about this in very astute words. Slut-shaming is right, plain and simple.

        Anonymous said...

        This post says just about everything that needs to be said. Brava!

        loriadorable said...

        I'll probably wait for more information to come out before making a judgement call then. I find it hard to believe you can send someone a dick pic by accident, but then, I guess anything is possible.

        Tess said...

        Thanks for a thorough and insightful look at this situation. It's been irking me no end, this sexless "sex scandal" and all the accompanying brouhaha that have been surrounding it.

        So glad you put all this into words, it so needed to be said.

        Anonymous said...

        You'd be surprised what you can do on Twitter by accident, especially when you're using it on your phone, lol.

        Anonymous said...

        Hey, maybe everyone in America should install an industrial-strength WeinerWare program, so a sitting US Congressman can send dick shots around the world and the rest of us who don't want such a thing - and who, from what I'm hearing from my progressive male friends - has the duty to not receive these.

        Freakin' hypocritical "progressives." I'm a progressive who is NOT on board with excusing this reckless, wild behavior just because the guy is a (D). What's most amusing is that as the House's #1 attack dog, if this had been a GOP serial cyberer, Weiner would be burning up CSpan time railing against him on the House floor.

        Anonymous said...

        """ Guess what?

        That's a personal use of government property and time. It's time for you to go too. ""

        And would I offer my spouse the use of paid congressional staff as PR consultants?

        More insane apologists for Tony.

        Oh, really? said...

        There is a reason I stopped watching television years ago.

        loriadorable said...

        Yeah, it looks like the more info that comes out, the more clear it becomes that Weiner *was* harassing women: http://bit.ly/iEqImq And probably because she was a sex worker. Wow.

        Anonymous said...

        Eh, I don't know yet... She mentions the 'inappropriate' messages he sent her but never any of her own messages. How did she respond? Why didn't she block him if she felt harassed?

        Anonymous said...

        Well of course. If a woman is harassed that is HER fault. Why didn't she block him. The silly girl.

        MJ said...

        No one said it was her FAULT... but I AM curious why she continued to follow him, never blocked him, never reported him, never said anything to him about it, never came out about it. Its not as though he was her employer and she felt as though she couldn't do anything. It was twitter: why DIDN'T she block him? That doesn't mean it's her fault or he didn't do anythign wrong. But yes I am curious what actually happened. I'd love to hear the other side.

        Anonymous said...

        Don't forgot the President's comments regarding Weiner and Nancy's comments, probably the biggest influence on Weiner resigning.

        KB said...

        I'm not sure what that refers to, but I'm not an apologist for him.

        I don't think he did anything wrong.
        I'm not married to him.
        His marriage; his morality; his choices - those are all between he and his wife.

        They're characterizing his photos in the House gym as "partially nude". He's a man wearing shorts.

        If the House is so concerned with government property and time, maybe they shouldn't have a "House gym" in the first place. Who pays for that anyway?

        The Republicans everyone mentions BROKE THE LAW. So far, there is no proof of that in Weiner's case.

        I'm not excusing him.
        I just don't care.
        There are so many more important things in my life to worry about besides that Anthony Weiner may have screwed up his marriage, which he claims to value.