Over the weekend, someone tweeted a crotch shot from Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account at a 21-year-old Washington state college student. Whether Weiner was hacked, as he says, or committed a costly gaffe, as his opponents suggest, remains unclear. But either way, there’s no denying Weiner’s reputation.
Before his 2010 marriage to Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Weiner was known as one of Washington’s most eligible bachelors, with a long and glamorous list of exes. But perhaps no incident is as infamous as his encounter with a young staffer two days after Sept. 11, 2001, recounted in a Vanity Fair article that year.
Vicky Ward, a reporter for the magazine, was tracking Diana Davis, a young congressional staffer who bragged, “Maybe I’ll bag me a senator” after snagging her Hill gig. Davis and intern Carolina Chatterton were at the D.C. restaurant Capital Grille when they met a group of suited men. One, a goateed young man, introduced himself as “Anthony,” and said he was an auto-parts salesman. The next day, Weiner sent Davis an email—although she initially didn’t know he was a congressman. “He writes that he hopes they might meet again,” Ward wrote. “Diana is overwhelmed that he’s managed to think of her on a day that must be heavy with import and emotional intensity. Last night he mentioned that he’d be going to Manhattan to inspect the World Trade Center wreckage with the president.”
Davis said Weiner had emailed that she could visit him in his office “in person,” a suggestion she found “cheesy.” Weiner denied offering any such invitation and explained that he didn’t like to identify himself as a congressman when socializing. “I feel it’s a way to protect myself,” he told The Washington Post’s Lloyd Grove, now a Daily Beast editor at large. “I think people are less likely to overhear what an auto-parts salesman would say. I was shocked to learn that two days after September 11, Vanity Fair was pursuing a sting operation down in Washington.”
As a young, single member of Congress—he’s only 46 now, and looks younger—he dated a string of high-profile young women.
Even if nothing happened with Davis, Weiner’s love life was a topic of conversation. As a young, single member of Congress—he’s only 46 now, and looks younger—he dated a string of high-profile young women. He was romantically linked to Rebecca Mead, a New Yorker writer; television personality and “cybermodel” Alli Joseph; and TV reporter Gigi Stone. (The New York Daily News once published a gallery of “ Weiner’s Women.”)
In 2008, Weiner sponsored a bill to increase the number of visas available to models by 1,000. The representative’s spokesman said it was just economics to bring jobs to New York City, but the New York Post was skeptical. “Seems Anthony Weiner is working hard to increase his dating pool,” the tabloid quipped.
But it appeared that had all changed when Weiner fell for Abedin, who is half-Indian and half-Pakistani and grew up in Saudi Arabia. They began dating in 2008 and were engaged the following year. Abedin, who has been featured in Vogue, is known for being forceful and effective. Their wedding was presided over by Bill Clinton. Weiner was smitten. “This notion that Senator Clinton is a cool customer—I mean, I don’t dispute it, but the coolest customer in that whole operation is Huma,” he said during the 2008 presidential campaign. Shortly before his wedding, he told the Daily News, “I’m over the moon.” And he mentioned Abedin during his widely lauded appearance at the 2011 Congressional Correspondents’ Dinner, joking, “She’s lovely and brilliant and widely respected throughout this town, so obviously opposites attract.”
The mysterious Twitter picture has prompted new murmurs that perhaps Weiner is back to his playboy ways. Both the congressman and the recipient of the quickly deleted tweet say they don’t know each other and have never met, although they did follow each other on the microblogging service. Gennette Cordova, a 21-year-old student at Seattle’s Whatcom Community College, said in a statement to the Daily News, ”I have never met Congressman Weiner, though I am a fan. I go to school in Bellingham where I spend all of my time; I’ve never been to New York or to DC. The point I am trying to make is that, contrary to the impression that I apparently gave from my tweet, I am not his girlfriend. Nor am I the wife, girlfriend or mistress of Barack Obama, Ray Allen, or Cristiano Ronaldo, despite the fact that I have made similar assertions about them via Twitter.”
The 198 people Weiner follows are an odd mix, with names like MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and PolitiFact mixing with several accounts with few followers that appear to belong to young women (including the bikini-clad Melody Gambino and ♥ dreamer girl ♥, who’s fond of the heart symbol). Meanwhile, a blogger pointed out that porn star and stripper Ginger Lee claims to have received a direct message from the congressman on Twitter—although the contents, according to Lee, were hardly salacious: “He thanked me for the shout-outs and said he likes my blog.”
Weiner’s office says it’s all a distraction and has hired a lawyer to advise him on whether he can press charges, his office says. Meanwhile, he’s lining up defenders, including his political mentor, Sen. Chuck Schumer—but as New York Observer reporter Azi Paybarah points out, the Democratic senator’s statement is far from unequivocal: “I am virtually certain he had nothing to do with this.”
With right-wing media outlets licking their lips at the prospect of taking down the outspokenly liberal Weiner, the story is long from over—and Schumer is likely to have a more definitive answer before too long.
David Graham is a reporter for Newsweek covering politics, national affairs, and business. His writing has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The National in Abu Dhabi.