Silence, vagueness from Democrats on Weiner photo

By Henry C. Jackson

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, June 2 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., waits for an elevator near his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 2, 2011.

Susan Walsh, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Publicly silent, fellow Democrats privately seethed Thursday over the distraction and furor surrounding the lewd photo sent from Rep. Anthony Weiner's Twitter account, even as he declared he was finished talking about it and wanted to move on.

Weiner's one-day, pun-laden media blitz a day earlier had only raised more questions about the embarrassing flap when he conceded he wasn't sure whether the waist-down photo of a man's bulging underpants was of him or not. His refusal to involve law enforcement because he said as a member of Congress he shouldn't get special treatment — instead turning the issue over to a private security company he hired — raised rather and answered questions.

The uproar began over the weekend when conservative activist Andrew Breitbart reported on his website that Weiner had sent the photo to a 21-year-old female college student in Seattle who was one of the New York congressman's Twitter followers. Weiner has insisted he did not send the photo. He says he saw it online before deleting it.

Though generally mum in public, Democrats privately fumed at the forced detour in their arguments about Medicare and spending, leaving the generally well-liked seven-term congressman from Brooklyn and Queens largely to fend for himself for a third day in a row. Most Republicans seemed content to let the controversy simmer.

A scene on the House floor Wednesday afternoon seemed to highlight the situation. As newly elected New York Rep. Kathy Hochul was sworn in — after an upset, special-election victory Democrats considered a sign of their ability to communicate their differences with Republicans on the future of Medicare — Weiner and the No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer were locked in a nearly 10 minute, animated conversation.

On Thursday, Weiner joined Democratic lawmakers at the White House where the caucus met with President Barack Obama. As they walked from buses on Pennsylvania Ave. Weiner's colleagues stonewalled when they were asked about their colleague.

"I will have nothing to say about that," said fellow New Yorker, Rep. Louise Slaughter. "I'm here to put people to work."

"We're not distracted by that," said Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J.

The House's top Democrat, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, earlier told ABC News that she was "a late-comer to the issue" — one that cable TV and the Capitol press corps have been fixated on for most of the week.

Still, Pelosi added, "I have confidence in Anthony Weiner that if an investigation is in order that will take place."

Other top Democrats expressed a desire for the issue to disappear. Longtime Rep. John Conyers of Michigan said Weiner was a valuable member of the Democratic caucus, and he called the issue a distraction.

"The public mostly likes entertainment and excitement and that's what the Weiner issue provides," he said. "That's human nature."

Noting that the House was heading into a week-long break, Dingell said he hoped the issue soon "will not have the entertainment value that it currently enjoys."

It seemed to be a bad week for politicians and their social media elsewhere, too. The Twitter account of the speaker of the Ohio House, William Batchelder, was hacked and phony comments were posted making it appear the Republican leader was championing liberal causes.

In New York, Weiner's constituents said they were disappointed.

Ian Fredericks in Queens' Kew Gardens said Weiner could end the controversy by being forthright. "He seems really reluctant to answer whether or not it's a picture of him," Fredericks said.

Evelyn Carson said her children brought the news to her attention after being on Twitter.

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