The PJ Tatler

Weinergate: What we know (Update: Weiner hires a lawyer)

For MSM types who wish to start covering Weinergate accurately, or for readers just catching up, here’s a quick primer on the undisputed Weinergate facts.

On Friday night, New York Democrat Rep. Anthony Weiner’s twitter feed sent 21-year-old college student Gennette Nicole Cordova, a Seattle resident, a tweet containing a link to a lewd photo of a man in his briefs. Weiner followed Cordova on twitter, and Cordova followed Weiner on twitter. At the time of the lewd tweet, Weiner had about 45,000 twitter followers but he followed just 91 people, and Cordova was among them. This two-way following relationship allows twitter users to send messages directly to one another without such messages going on either user’s public twitter feeds. Weiner deleted the tweet with the link to the photo four minutes after it went out on his public twitter feeds, and claimed he was hacked, blaming the lewd photo on the hacker. The link that appeared in Weiner’s public twitter feed led to the photo on Weiner’s yfrog account. The photo has also been removed.

Here is a rough Weinergate timeline. If you see errors or items that need clarification, hit me up in comments or email and I’ll correct or clarifiy anything that needs it.

1. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was very active on twitter on Friday, awaiting a financial disclosure from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a disclosure that Weiner intended to turn into a political attack on Thomas.

2. Weiner’s twitter feed goes silent for about 3 hours, 24 minutes Friday afternoon/evening, a time during which he is allegedly watching a hockey game. (Weiner’s spokesman later claimed that he had been tweeting about the hockey game during that time, a claim that has turned out to be false.)

3. Before Weiner’s public twitter feed went silent, he sent out the following tweet:

Heading to 30 Rock to chat with Rachel at 9. #Thats545InSeattleIThink
about 17 hours ago via TweetDeck

Some MSM accounts of the scandal, including the NYT, have omitted this tweet. It’s relevant because the recipient of the lewd photo lives in Seattle Bellingham, WA (same time zone as Seattle, and Seattle is where Cordova identified herself as being from in her original twitter feed). Weiner is a New York Democrat. Why did he tweet out a time hack to Seattle about a television appearance of his? For whom was this tweet intended?

TweetDeck may also be a useful clue, in that TweetDeck allows users to monitor multiple twitter streams, including their own and any mentions of themselves, public messages and private messages, at the same time. According to the tweet above, Weiner was using TweetDeck on Friday; he could have been managing his public tweets and mentions of himself in two columns while managing any number of private message conversations in other columns. He could also have quickly seen any tweets that he intended to send as private messages appear in his public stream, and any mentions of those tweets by others as well.

4. After a public silence of 3 hrs, 24 mins, Weiner’s twitter account sends out the following public tweet:

@RepWeiner @(name redacted) 13 hours, 59 minutes ago reply

This is the tweet with the lewd photo. No mention of TweetDeck, so it may have come from a cell phone with a camera that also tweets natively.  The tweet went to the 21-year-old college student in Seattle, but not as a direct message (which is private). It went out on Weiner’s public twitter feed and remained there for about four minutes before it was removed, presumably by Weiner. One letter swap — a d in place of the second @ symbol — would have made the tweet a private direct message from Weiner to Cordova. (If Weiner took the photo and tweeted it to her and he happens to have had his computer running TweetDeck nearby, he could have accidentally sent the tweet publicly from his phone, and in a few minutes’ time seen it show up in his public feed, with mentions accompanying it).

5. Friday night, 3 hrs 28 minutes after his last public tweet, Weiner begins an hour of tweets saying that his facebook account had been hacked, that his DVR had malfunctioned while recording a hockey game, and speculating that his blender might attack him next. His facebook and twitter accounts are not linked.

6. After the tweets in step five, which spanned about an hour, Weiner tweets that his twitter feed had also been hacked, and salutes “Mr. Moriarty” for getting one over on him (Mr. Moriarty is the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes). Here, the recently married Weiner is apparently saluting the person who he claims hacked his twitter feed and sent a lewd photo to a young woman in Seattle in Weiner’s name on his public twitter feed. Both hacking and impersonating a congressman are criminal acts. Weiner makes no mention of referring the hacking or the impersonation of himself to any authorities, and as of this writing, no such referral appears to have been made. Most people do not report hacks of their personal online accounts to the police, but Weiner is a public figure and in this case the hacking, if it occurred, has allowed a person or persons unknown to impersonate a federal official in a way that threatens his reputation and his marriage, making it a more serious matter than your usual run-of-the-mill hacking of a personal twitter account.

7. The recipient of the lewd photo, Gennette Cordova, issued a statement about the incident on Sunday, denying any “inappropriate” direct messages between herself and Weiner, and denying being in a relationship with him. Some media took her statement to be an accusation against another twitter user as being the person who hacked Weiner’s twitter account and posted the photo. She has denied making that allegation. Her statement does not address several critical facts, including how it came to be that she and Weiner mutually followed each other. She also does not explain the tweet in step 8; she merely denies an allegation the she tweeted it twice. She denies having ever met Weiner in person, though no one has alleged that they have ever met in person. She also denies having ever visited New York or Washington, DC, though no one has alleged otherwise.

8. Cordova did, however, tweet “I wonder what my boyfriend @RepWeiner is up to,” on April 9, 2011. It is an open question whether she considers such a tweet about a recently married public figure to be appropriate or not.

9. Weiner has also direct messaged a porn star on twitter, according to the porn star. Weiner thus far has not denied her claim.

How did Cordova become one of the only 91 people Weiner followed? Neither has said. It could be something as innocent as she, a journalism student and by her own admission a “fan” of Weiner’s, followed his twitter feed and he, seeing an email notification of her following him, decided to follow her. But if that’s the case, then why, out of the 45,000+ followers he had, did he choose to follow her specifically?

With his “Mr. Moriarty” tweet, Rep. Weiner put himself in the role of Sherlock Holmes. That being the case, surely Weiner realizes that Holmes would want to question both of the people at the center of this mystery, about a great number of things.

Sources — Dan Riehl, DaTechGuy, Ace.

Update: Mediaite has a Photoshop expert examine the photo’s EXIF data. His review is inconclusive. And here’s another take on the EXIF data, which doesn’t conform with other photos Weiner has posted on his yfrog account, but which doesn’t rule out the cell phone possibility I mentioned above. It’s not at all improbable that he has more than one BlackBerry.

Update: R.S. McCain:

The belief that this mystery can be solved by analyzing the available online data, staring at the photo long enough until you spot the smoking-gun clue, is probably misguided.  Wherever the answer to this enigma is to be found, I don’t think it’s in the photo itself, because the question is not whether the photo is “real.” The question is who sent it from Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account.

That really is what’s at issue: Was Weiner really hacked, or is he lying about that? The EXIF data is interesting, but not dispositive for either side.

Update: Doug Ross has also put a timeline together, which includes a detail I’d missed until a commenter pointed it out: Gennette Nicole did retweet the Seattle time hack from @RepWeiner that night. Additionally, as noted in Roger’s post, a high school girl claimed that she had a DM conversation with Weiner back on April 12.

Doug’s twitter timeline is the best and most complete I’ve seen so far. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Update: Weiner is lawyering up.

New York Rep. Anthony Weiner has retained an attorney to advise him “what civil or criminal actions should be taken” after a lewd picture was sent from his Twitter account.

Weiner, who has represented part of New York City since 1998, says online hacking led to a close-up shot of a man’s underwear being sent from his official Twitter account Saturday night.

He retains a lawyer before going to the authorities. Interesting. Weiner and his staff continue to treat the alleged hacking as a “silly prank,” but to the extent that such a hack would enable persons unknown to impersonate a sitting congressman, it’s far more than a prank. But calling it a prank diminishes the incident’s importance and absolves Weiner from calling in the FBI. Presumably their investigation would start on Weiner’s own computer, if only to determine if he had been victimized by any keyloggers or other malware a hacker might have used to get his passwords. Unless the hacker used social engineering to get his password. That would raise a whole set of new questions for Sherlock to pursue.