Covering Weiner

abc-weinerA candidate running well behind in New York’s  Democratic mayoral primary is not usually someone national media pay attention to. But when the candidate is a former congressman now involved in his second sex scandal, the media’s level of interest is considerably greater.

Since the revelation that Anthony Weiner was caught sending explicit text messages–this all happened after his first scandal involving lewd pictures he was sending on Twitter–his campaign has taken a nose dive. (“Now that Anthony D. Weiner’s campaign has imploded” was how the New York Times put it today–8/5/13.)

But his campaign is still making news–not just in New York, but on the Sunday chat shows, which rarely take an interest in city politics. Anchor Martha Raddatz (8/4/13) declared:

Anthony Weiner still in the spotlight, showing no sign of dropping out of the New York City mayor’s race, insisting this weekend he and his wife are having fun on the campaign trail.

That led to a short report from the campaign trail–an extremely unusual thing to see about a New York mayoral primary on a Sunday chat show.

 Then came the roundtable:

RADDATZ: Why are we — and maybe I shouldn’t say we — still following this so closely?

GEORGE WILL: In what I hope are the last words I’m ever required to utter about this man, say this, in his brief but not brief enough congressional career, he was 1/435 of one half of one of our three branches of government, during which tenure he made no discernible mark on the national life. We’re doing this because he’s peculiar and because it’s August.

RADDATZ: And because it’s like a car wreck, I think you told me —


WILL: Exactly.

RADDATZ: — you can’t take your eyes off it.

WILL: It’s a guilty pleasure.

The thing about journalism is that there are “car wrecks” all over the place–part of the job is figuring out which ones are actually important.

 ABC‘s Jeff Zeleny came on to say:

I mean, we are not going to be talking about Anthony Weiner for that much longer. The primary is September 10, so he’ll stay in till then, probably, but he’s out of money…. He is no longer or soon to be no longer a serious major candidate for the mayor of New York.

So Weiner is going to lose, he’s not serious, so there’s probably no reason to keep talking about….  Hold on, one of the panelists is a friend of Weiner’s wife:

RADDATZ: And Huma is going on vacation. I know you’re a friend of Huma’s. What does that tell us, if anything?

NEERA TANDEN: I don’t think it tells us very much. I mean, Huma is a friend of mine, but I think really Jeff is right. This race is — in a few weeks it’s going to be over soon.

Then former CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien joins in to say, sensibly enough, that we should be talking about actual issues–education policy and “this massive income gap in New York City,” for starters.

Good idea!

Which leads Raddatz to pose the next question about… Anthony Weiner:

RADDATZ: And none of this could be good for the Clintons.

MATTHEW DOWD: Well, I think that’s ultimately, ultimately, where this falls back on. I think that’s going to be somewhat problematic, because people are going to get through this. The good news about this is Anthony Weiner is in fourth place, falling fast.

Dowd went on to add that the scandal 

is problematic for a Clinton emergence in 2016, because I think the country always does — it smells something. It may not attach itself to Hillary Clinton at all, but they don’t like the smell of something.

That went on for a while, then back to Raddatz:

RADDATZ: Do you think Republicans will forget about the Anthony Weiner scandal and how Hillary Clinton may or may not tie into that with Huma?

See, it turns out that spending so much time talking about Weiner is important–it gives corporate journalists a way to handicap the 2016 election.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.