Congressman Anthony Weiner’s “Bulge” Photo Crisis

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on June 1, 2011 – 10:49 AM

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky…and I need to go back to work for the American people.” – Bill Clinton, January 26, 1998

“I’m going to get back to work today.” – Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), May 31, 2011

New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, a liberal firebrand whose fiery rhetoric earns him endless cable airtime, suddenly hates television cameras.

Here’s the story. Late last week, Rep. Weiner appeared to Tweet a photo of his “bulge” in a tight pair of underwear to a college student in Washington State. Rep. Weiner, who is married, claimed his account was hacked (he later called it a “prank.”) Conservative activists who claimed to see the Tweet say he’s lying. 

It’s possible that Mr. Weiner didn’t send the tweet himself. But his crisis communications response thus far has been to borrow from two dreadful examples – Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky speech and Gary Condit’s stonewalling silence – and as a result, he looks guilty.

Here are a few of things Mr. Weiner is doing wrong:

1. Refusing to Answer Basic Questions: Did Weiner send the tweet or not? He refuses to say, opting instead to take a tone of supercilious sanctimony with the media. His tone is totally inappropriate given the ease with which he could end this story by answering the direct question.

2. He’s Obviously Obfuscating: Instead of answering a direct question, he directs people to an incomplete statement that doesn’t answer the key question.

3. Attacking The Media: In the above clip, Mr. Weiner calls a reporter a “jackass.”

“The Bulge.” Photo Credit: The Daily Caller website

If Weiner is innocent, no crisis communications coach in the world would advise him to employ this strategy. His response leaves the unmistakable impression that he did, indeed, send the picture to a young woman – and that more damaging parts of the story may yet emerge. If not, why not just admit the infraction and move on?

Instead, Weiner, a likely contender for New York City Mayor in 2013, is acting like a man whose mayoral aspirations just went up in smoke.

Update (June 1, 2011, 2:35pm): In an interview with MSNBC this afternoon, Rep. Weiner finally denied that he sent out the tweet, but could not say “with certitude” that the tweet wasn’t of him in his underwear. He appeared defenisve and evasive, confirming my impression that there’s more to this story than the public knows right now. Worse, he made an erection joke (“I’m not sure it rises to the level, no pun intended.”). The interview is below:

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Click here to hear my interview about Anthony Weiner’s crisis on Washington, D.C.’s WTOP.

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Comments (8)

  1. By Mr. Big:

    Note Exhibit A: The evidence reveals a circumsized member which is obligatory for Jewish-born males.

  2. By Brad Phillips:

    I can’t believe I’m responding to this comment, but here goes: If you’re able to see that level of detail in that grainy photograph, you have better eyes than I do. And that’s flimsy evidence to rest your case upon: some secular Jews don’t adhere to those rules, and plenty of non-Jews get circumcized.

  3. By Buctoof:

    Looks like Munsingwear’s midway underwear

  4. By Thomas:

    Man, that is painful to watch.
    Although I guess I agree with him in principle about trying to stay on message and not allow the person who threw the pie control the narrative, but oh boy.
    His team should have attended your training Brad!

  5. By Brad Phillips:

    Thomas – I think the only explanation is that there’s more to the story; his actions are consistent with a man who doesn’t want the full story to come out. Mr. Weiner has been married for less than a year, and I don’t suspect an incident like this is easy on a marriage. I can’t help but thinking that his decisions are being influenced, at least in part, by those concerns.

  6. By Will:

    Look, it’s Anothony Weiner’s Weiner!

  7. By Brad Phillips:

    Will,

    This kind of peurile comment is more appropriate for a website such as Mediaite.

    Best wishes,
    Brad

  8. By Newt Gingrich and the Republicans are Ruining Traditional Marriage « Tex Shelters Online:

    […] bulge wasn’t a German Panzer attack in WWII, it was the photo that Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner sent of the outline of his penis in underwear to a female college student he had met online. It became a massive issue for […]

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