It may be too soon to say for sure, but this Memorial Day weekend may go down in the annals of Twitter history as one of the strangest ones imaginable. Rep. Anthony Weiner claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked after an inappropriate photo surfaced that was alleged to have been sent to a college student via the social media platform. There are a slew of legitimate questions, however, that remain. Once answered, they could do irreparable damage to some high profile personalities, particularly if there is more to the story, as there most certainly is.
Yesterday, Mediaite’s Frances Martel introduced the entire story, presenting it as a “Twitter Whodunnit,” with more unanswered questions than facts that were currently known. She then surmised that there were a number of options on how this story will eventually play out. Since then, more evidence has come to light (almost all of which is circumstantial) that has only served to raise eyebrows higher.
It seems the two most likely outcomes are that either that Weiner’s account was hacked, as he claimed in an email to Politico’s Ben Smith last night, or that he did, in fact, send the embarrassing photo via Twitter, and now is engaged in a clumsy bit of cover up.
Let’s look at the arguments for each:
Why We Should Be Suspicious Of Weiner’s Claims: The Seattle Factor
As Big Government’s Dan Riehl asks, why would Rep. Weiner care what time it is in Seattle?
Given the current mystery surrounding Weinergate, there’s an interesting Tweet that (as of this writing) still remains in Rep. Weiner’s Tweet stream. While we’ve gone to some length to protect the identity of the woman involved, we have confirmed and can document, if need be, that she hails from Seattle, Washington. So the question is, why would Weiner be mindful of the time in Seattle (see the hashtag below) hours before the time he now claims his Facebook account was hacked by someone who then sent an explicit image via Twitter to … a woman in Seattle?
Here’s a transcript of the Tweet in question:
Heading to 30 Rock to chat with Rachel at 9. #Thats545InSeattleIThink
about 17 hours ago via TweetDeck
Retweeted by 18 people
In fact, the Seattle woman in question who later received the explicit image — and who is now being identified at other sites, actually re-tweeted Rep. Weiner’s tweet: Below is a (redacted) screenshot of her retweet:
Further, and perhaps more damning, is a question posed by Andrew Breitbart via Twitter which challenges Weiner’s assertion that the security of his verified Twitter account had been hacked, and asks if that should have been reported to federal authorities?
Efforts to reach Weiner’s press office have not been returned at this time. It is likely, however, only a matter of time before we know if Weiner reported the hack to the authorities, and what officials may or may not find. Of course, if Weiner does not report this security breach to authorities, his detractors may reasonably presume that he is somehow complicit in covering up this story. In an interview with Mediaite regarding this story, Breitbart stated “the cover up is always worse than the crime.”
At this point, though, it is fair to point out that there may be legitimate reasons why this question is, as yet, unanswered. Weiner may have already reported it, but been instructed by authorities not to divulge that. Answers from Rep. Weiner’s office could be slow in arriving due to the holiday weekend. The lack of an answer to that question, in and of itself, is not dispositive proof one way or the other. The silence will gain significance the longer it endures.
Why We Should Be Suspicious Of These Allegations:
If this was in fact a hack, as Weiner claims, then it’s not unreasonable that the alleged hacker would do everything that he or she could do to make the individual look guilty, including retweeting the offending image, and then deleting it. Rep. Weiner is not just a progressive provocateur who has very few fans on the right, but he is also a very public figure with 45,000 Twitter followers. So it is perfectly reasonable to wonder why it would appear that his offending tweet was only retweeted once, by a Twitter user who goes by the handle @patriotusa76:
So who is this Twitter user that appeared to luck out and sent the only unique RT of Weiner’s image? The Twitter profile claims that he is an individual named Dan Wolfe, and his bio reads: “Conservative Reagan Republican. No Obamacare, socialism, sharia. Proud of the USA & Proud to be an American with NO apologies. No elitists need apply.”
Its not an exaggeration to say that Wolfe is somewhat obsessed with Weiner; a simple search reveals that, since April, he has mentioned Rep. Weiner 287 times via twitter. Also, skeptics might see that Wolfe and his Twitter clique have been building a narrative about Rep. Weiner’s followers for months, perhaps best evidenced by this tweet to an underage high school girl, who requested a follow from Weiner and got it:
So, a guy who has been building exactly this narrative for months turns out to be the one and only unique retweet of the picture in question? Just as Rep. Weiner’s cryptic hashtag about the Seattle time zone is reason to raise reasonable flag of suspicion, so too is this. Lest anyone think that Wolfe is somehow in cahoots with the Big Government report (and/or vice versa) Breitbart claims that Wolfe has refused to speak to him then adds “if he is involved in a conspiracy, then it is a very extensive one and a remarkably long narrative for this to pay off,” adding “that defies reason.”
In their original report, Big Government reasonably used a screencap from the Congressional Twitter archive, which doesn’t show how the tweet was sent (phone/web/etc). A real-time screen capture would have that information, and might have suggested Weiner’s innocence. It is reasonable to wonder why @patriotusa76 did not do a screen capture when he retweeted it.
And then there is this. The woman who was alleged to have been the intended recipient of the offending images claimed to have never received the image via Twitter (though a simple Internet search easily reveals her name, we have redacted it as well as her image):
She appears to be referencing earlier tweets from @Patriotusa76, wherein he actually communicated with her over a month in advance of his lucky strike:
Efforts to reach an individual who we believe is the intended recipient of the controversial image have not yet been returned.
Just as Rep. Weiner’s detractors point to “coincidences” to support their case, there are coincidences that raise serious questions in the other direction, as well, enough questions to withhold judgment until more facts are known, at a more reasonable interval.
This will be a very easy scandal to end if Rep. Weiner is willing to come forward and end it anyway possible. Either way, the back and forth between Rep. Weiner’s alleged tweet and Breitbart’s reporting is quickly becoming a high stakes came of poker.
Considering the stakes, everyone will be watching.
Update: Gennette Nicole Cordova, the alleged recipient of the photo, has issued a statement on the matter.
Additional research and reporting by Tommy Christopher.
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