Rep. Anthony Weiner, who still insists he won’t resign his New York congressional seat despite a House ethics committee investigation and building pressure from fellow Democrats, is the liberal firebrand with a reckless appetite for sexting strange women on the Web.
But the 46-year-old congressman, married for less than a year to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, may ultimately be remembered as the biggest scalp on Andrew Breitbart’s belt.
“That’s not a ‘scalp’!” the conservative Internet entrepreneur told me Tuesday afternoon, unable to suppress a licentious laugh. “I’m a media mohel,” the 42-year-old Breitbart added with giggle, using the Hebrew term for the guy with the knife in the Jewish ritual of circumcision.
“The mainstream media tried to make this about me, challenging me when I was truthful the entire time,” he went on. “I’m a truthful person, and I challenged them to name one instance where I’ve not told the truth. And they couldn’t.”
For an ideological warrior who has just dealt the enemy a grievous, possibly fatal, blow, Breitbart sounds surprisingly thin-skinned. He complained that Weiner “tacitly endorsed a campaign to try and get the story to be about that madman Breitbart dropping irrelevant and-or wrongheaded bombs… I didn’t expect the ferocity and uniformity of the attacks that came from places like The Nation magazine, the [Rachel] Maddow show, MSNBC in perpetuity, Salon.com, The Huffington Post, Media Matters, and the Daily Kos. That’s a formidable alliance of natural allies who have a history of coordinating their efforts to lie about me, knowing there would be very few repercussions, even if they were found to have been telling lies.”
It all started May 27, when Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com website posted a photo—sent from Weiner’s Twitter account—of tight gray underpants worn by a sexually aroused man. A panicked Weiner immediately deleted the photo and claimed his Twitter account had been “hacked” or “pranked” by parties unknown (possibly Breitbart, his supporters quietly suggested), and he spent the next week offering journalists a variety of increasingly implausible explanations, including that he couldn’t really tell if the photo was of him or not.
Then on Monday morning, Breitbart’s site released six additional photos, including several featuring Weiner posing bare-chested and pouty-lipped, which the congressman had sent over the Web to a 26-year-old single mother in Texas. Breitbart announced that he was holding back, at least for now, a seventh photo, which he describes as a graphic shot of the congressman in the altogether. “It’s the whole package,” Breitbart told me.
In an unbearably humiliating televised news conference that afternoon—prompted by a scandalous ABC News story being developed from Breitbart’s leads—a tearful Weiner acknowledged that he’d been lying all along. He apologized to his wife, his constituents, his friends, his family, and even to Andrew Breitbart. The right-wing gadfly, serendipitously or not, was at the Sheraton Hotel’s New York Ballroom to witness Weiner’s mortification, and took the podium himself to claim vindication before the congressman’s arrival.
Breitbart, a married father of four who lives and works in Los Angeles, said he’s not impressed by Weiner’s display of contrition.
“I have sincerity seismology equipment, and I called Cal Tech to confirm his apology, and it didn’t register,” he quipped. “He was forced by reporters who kept asking him about me particularly, and he would only do it in the context of ‘I apologize to everyone.’”
Breitbart patted himself on the back for his decorous restraint in withholding the salacious seventh image, which like the other six was provided by Texas resident Meagan Broussard (who received a photo “licensing” payment from ABC News).
“If I had chosen to post the truly offensive one, it would have gotten a million page views in an hour,” Breitbart said. “But I’m not TMZ. The exposure of the other photos served its purpose. It forced him to come clean. I have no desire to be the repository of salacious photographs of the congressman.”
Still, Breitbart warned that there are circumstances that may yet push him to go nuclear and post the money shot.
“My takeaway from the Clinton years is that the women in his life withstood relentless investigations and dissemination of information about them as a means to tell other women to keep their mouths shut,” Breitbart told me, noting Weiner’s friendship with Bill and Hillary. “If these women, who are part of an investigation, receive a similar message through the releasing of harmful private information about them, I’d consider that to be an act of warfare [and release the final photo]…I’ve seen it happen too many times from the Clinton camp.”
Both Breitbart and an ABC News spokesman disputed a New York Times report that the conservative webmaster “partnered” with the network news division on the Weiner scoop, saying he simply acted as a source who steered Broussard to ABC in order to remove any taint of partisan rancor. “If I was a partner, I’d like some money,” Breitbart told me.
Breitbart added that he isn’t surprised that the seven-term congressman refuses to quit his position. “It’s shocking, not surprising, because it’s such a selfish thing. A picture says a thousand words—and one I’ve seen says a few more than that—and I know now with 100 percent confidence that this guy is a narcissist. He was not sending photos to women to allow for what pleases women, which is a nice kind of cuddle or sweet nothings about how beautiful you are—which is what it takes in that department.”
Noting that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has been severe in her comments on Weiner’s conduct, Breitbart added: “The man thinks the world revolves around him. I think he’s going to find out very soon that it’s Nancy Pelosi’s world and he just happens to thinly live in it right now.”