House Representative Anthony Weiner (D., N.Y.) tearfully confessed to using Twitter to send a photo of himself in underwear to a woman, and then lying about it, another example of the sometimes unintentional role that social media plays in the political realm.
At a news conference, Weiner said when news of the photo surfaced last month, he lied about his Twitter account being hacked. The congressman also revealed the incident is part of an inappropriate pattern of exchanging explicit photos and messages with six women he met over the Internet.
He explained that the online relationships originated on Facebook — sometimes initiated by him, and sometimes the women — and the exchange of photos and messages, using Twitter, e-mail and the social network, was mutual. In addition, the congressman said he never personally met the women and did not engage in sex outside of his marriage.
“I have made terrible mistakes that have hurt the people I care about the most, and I’m deeply sorry,” Weiner said. “I have not been honest with myself, my family, my constituents, my friends, and supporters in the media.”
Weiner is just the latest politician caught up in a social media scandal. Others before him were chastised for tweets containing foul language, and most recently fellow Representative Chris Lee (R., N.Y.) resigned after he was caught responding to a personal ad on Craigslist with a shirtless photo of himself.
Certainly, politicians are using social media to campaign, fundraise, and connect with their constituents, but this latest example shows how the same tools are playing unintended roles in political scandals. Terms such as “electronic relationship” and “e-affairs” are being introduced to the lexicon and batted about, giving an electronic gloss to age-old behaviors of indiscretion.
After the news conference, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) called for an ethics investigation to see if Weiner broke any House rules, and Weiner said he would comply with that process.
Weiner, an outspoken Democrat from Queens who has been tagged as a potential candidate for mayor of New York City, said his marriage is not ending, he has broken no law, and he has no intentions of resigning his office.