June 1st, 2011

Weiner: “I don’t know what photographs are out there in the world of me”

CNN’s Wolf Biltzer sat down with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) today to talk about the Congressman’s lewd Twitter photo controversy.  A full transcript of the interview is after the jump.

Please credit all usage of the interview to CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer

VIDEO: Part One – Rep. Weiner CNN Interview
Rep. Anthony Weiner says he did not send a lewd photo to a college student.

VIDEO: Part Two – Rep. Weiner CNN Interview
Rep. Anthony Weiner says he is looking into who hacked his Twitter account but still thinks this is just a prank.

VIDEO: Part Three – Rep. Weiner CNN Interview
Rep. Anthony Weiner talks about the media coverage of the lewd photo sent from his Twitter account.

Full Interview Transcript

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR:  Welcome back.  I’m Wolf Blitzer.  We’re on Capitol Hill with Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.   Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Thank you, Wolf.  It’s my pleasure.

BLITZER:  Did you send that picture to that college student in Washington state?

WEINER:  I did not.  She says she never got it and doesn’t know me; I don’t — certainly don’t know her.

This seems like it’s a prank to make fun of my name.  You know, when your named Weiner, that happens a lot.  Got 45,000-some odd Twitter followers, hundreds of people that I follow.  This seems like a prank that has gotten an enormous amount of attention.

BLITZER:  This is the picture — I’m sure you’ve seen it by now.  Is this you?

WEINER:  I can tell you this.  We have a firm that we’ve hired — I’ve seen it, it’s — I’ve seen it — a firm that we’ve hired to get to the bottom of it.

I can tell you this, that photos can manipulated.  Photos  can be of one thing changed to look like something else.  We’re going to try to get the bottom of what happened.  Maybe Jon Stewart last night had it right, unfortunately, but we’re going to find out.

Look, this has turned into this kind of international whodunit.  What it really is was, I think, a prank.  I’m treating it like a prank and trying to get back to the work I’m trying to do.  I understand you want to pursue the story, and we’re going to try to help you the best we can.

BLITZER:  Well, we just want to resolve it once and for all.  You would know if this is your underpants, for example.

WEINER:  The question is — I appreciate you continuing to flash that at me.

Look, I’ve said the best I can, that we’re going to try to get to the bottom of what happened here.  But you know, I just want to caution you — and you understand this, you’re a pro — that photographs can be manipulated.  Photographs can be taken up from one place and put in another place, photos they can be doctored.  And I want to make sure that we know for sure what happened here.

It certainly doesn’t look familiar to me, but I don’t want to say with certitude to you something that I don’t know to be the certain truth.

But I do know some certain truths here.  I didn’t send any Twitter picture.  The person who allegedly it was sent to, this poor woman who is, frankly, a victim in all of this, didn’t get it.  She put out a statement saying as much.  I don’t know her, she doesn’t know me.

It seems to me that this is what goes on in the Internet world, in the social media world of 2011 that sometimes this happens.  Hundreds and thousands of times, just about every week, people have spam and hacking that goes on.  It seems like I was a victim of that, and I don’t consider that big of a federal offense, but people want to pay attention to it and I guess I get it.  When you’re named Weiner, it kind of goes with the territory.

BLITZER:  Have you ever taken a picture of yourself like this?

WEINER:  I can tell you this, that there are — I have photographs.  I don’t know what photographs are out there in the world of me.  I don’t know what things have been manipulated and doctored, and we’re going to try to find out what happened.

But the most important reason I want to find out what happened is to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  Obviously, somebody got access to my account; that’s bad.  They sent a picture that makes fun of the name Weiner.  I get it.  You know, touche, Dr. Moriarty, you got me.

At the time it happened, I tweeted right away that I got the joke and I continued on with my life.  And I think that, frankly, that’s what I would encourage everyone to do.  I don’t believe that this is a big federal issue, but people are free to pursue it if they like.

BLITZER:  But you would like to get to the bottom of it.  So the questions is, have you asked Capitol Hill Police or New York Police or FBI or law enforcement authority to investigate?

WEINER:  Have I called — have I called the cops or the FBI because someone sent spam?  No.  However, I did get a firm, a law firm who specializes in these things, who specializes in white-collar crime.  I’ve got someone who is — and they’re going to get someone who is an Internet security expert to get to the bottom of how we secure my accounts.

Every day, Wolf, people have stuff like this happen.  It’s regrettable, but it’s true, every day.  Every day it doesn’t become a federal case.  Just because it happened to Congressman Weiner on his personal account doesn’t mean the taxpayers should pay for some investigation of this that winds up going on and on for years and years to find out who — wait for it — who sent a picture of someone in shorts on the Internet on the account of a guy named Weiner.  I just don’t think it rises to that level.  I don’t think it’s a federal case, but I’m going to turn it over to some people who are going to give me advice on what to do next.

BLITZER:  Have — but have your lawyers suggested to you that a crime may have been committed if somebody broke into your Twitter account —

WEINER:  Perhaps.

BLITZER: — and sent this out?

WEINER:  That’s one of the things — it’s a fair question.

BLITZER:  Cause you’re a United States congressman.

WEINER:  I know, but I’m a citizen, too.  And I’m a guy who is on Twitter jousting with people all the time.  I follow you, by the way.  Excellent Twitter feed.

I have to say that it doesn’t necessarily mean that because it happened to Anthony Weiner means it should become a big federal investigation.  I’ve watched federal investigations going on for years and chew up millions and millions of dollars.  For what?  Because someone sent a picture to someone who never got even it who says they don’t even know me?

I mean, I understand people may be curious about this particular case, but at home people there are people who are watching this saying, you know what, I get spam all the time and I don’t call the cops.  Or, you know what, I mean, it’s a terrible thing that happened, but I lost thousands of dollars in a hacking and I couldn’t get a federal investigation.  Why should Congressman Weiner get one just to find out who sent a randy picture from his — from his Twitter feed?

BLITZER:  Did you send direct messages or private messages to this woman in Washington state, Gennette Cardova?

WEINER:  I’m going to — I’m going to — look, I’m not going to get into how I communicate with people on social media.  I’m not going to open the door to like, did I send someone a note that said, thank you for following me, please tune in for the www.anthonyweiner.com in the future.  I don’t want to open the door to you saying, well, what about this person, what did she say back, what did this person say.

All I can say this.  There was nothing, as she said, inappropriate.  There is standard communication that people have on social media.  I tweet all the time.  I’ve got thousand — 45,000 followers, more than just about any member of Congress.  It’s a playful combative feed.  I encourage people to sign up @RepWeiner, and this is what happens, sometimes people zing you back and that’s what happened in this case.

BLITZER:  Do you do all of your own personal tweeting or do your staff members do it for you?

WEINER:  I do, with some limited exceptions that — we have a firm that does mass mail for us that sometimes links to it, but it’s me, it’s got my voice.  I was tweeting at the moment this happened —

BLITZER:  I mean, does anybody else have your pass code?

WEINER:  Well, that’s one of the things, unfortunately, we’re going to be looking into.

Not that I know of, but, you know, as I tweeted that night, I have had problems with getting access to my Facebook accounts and I’ve have had to change that account a few times.  And perhaps.

We’re going to find out what happened.  I don’t know.  You know, I fear we’re going to find out that perhaps our security here was not particularly good, and maybe it’s going to turn out to be a worse situation than it looks right now.

Now it looks like a prank.  We’re treating it like a prank and we’re desperately trying just to get back to business, and that’s why we’re sitting down with CNN today.

BLITZER:  So here’s what raised some suspicion.  Back on May 27th, you tweeted this, you were about to be on “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC.  You said, “Heading to 30 Rock to chat with Rachel at 9:00.”  And then you said, “That’s 5:45 in Seattle, I think. ”  The woman in question here is in Seattle.

WEINER:  Right.  I had tweeted previously — I know, it’s a terrible coincidence and that’s all it is.  And frankly, I didn’t even know the girl was in Seattle from her feed.

Look, let me say this.  In the past on my Twitter feed, I had done a similar joke about other cities.

BLITZER:  Why Seattle?

WEINER:  It was pure, pure coincidence.  I have no idea.

You know, part of the Twitter ethos is they’re playful, dopey things.  I don’t think it was 5:45 in Seattle.

It was a pure coincidence.  And frankly, you know, it’s questions like this are why I was a little bit testy yesterday.  It’s like at what point does the line get drawn where you say, you know this is just ridiculous now?  You want to go back and look at my Twitter feeds, and you find some time that I reference Seattle to link it back to this — you know, I tweet hundreds of times and I say all kinds of things.  A lot of the things I said are very combative about Republicans.  Very — you know, I’m a very feisty —

BLITZER:  I follow you on Twitter, so I know.

WEINER:  Right, and you know how feisty I am.  I mean, you know how I lean into it and how I take pokes at them all the time.  And, you know, a much more reasonable line of questioning would be like, you know, maybe someone punked him back, you know, to get even for all of those times.  That’s what I thought at the time.

And yet — and I would just say, you know, this person or anyone else who follows me, what do they do wrong here?  They’ve done nothing wrong.  Why should they be getting reporters hounding them, why are you following Congressman Weiner?

Why should I have people showing me pictures of your followers — do you — you know, why do you follow this person?  Well, this is Twitter.  You follow people sometimes because they ask you to follow them.  Why does that person deserve to have their face splashed in “The New York Post”?

It’s just — there’s a level of this, Wolf, that it’s gotten a little crazy.  And maybe I contributed to it by maybe not being direct about it, maybe the statements I put out on Saturday and Sunday, maybe being — having a gaggle of cameras follow my wife and me taking a wife taking a walk on Monday didn’t do the trick.  I came here yesterday convinced.  I want to talk about the debt limit, I want to talk about health care reform.

BLITZER:  Let’s go through a couple things —

WEINER:  Sure.

BLITZER: — and then I’ll let you move on —

WEINER:  Sure.

BLITZER:  — to the debt limit, health reform and all of that.

WEINER:  I appreciate it.  Thank you.

BLITZER:  Back on March 13th, a woman named Ginger Lee, who is a stripper, apparently, she tweeted this, and I’ll — I’ll put it up on the screen, “You know it’s a good day when you wake up to a DM (direct message) from @RepWeiner.  I’m a fangirl, y’all, he’s my trifecta of win.”

Do you have any idea who this woman is, sending her direct messages?

WEINER:  This is another person who I — has gotten dragged into this for no reason other than she was following me and asked to be followed by me.  She was following, and asked to be followed.

It’s — I think what this is about is a fairly pro forma thing that goes out that I send out to people as I follow them.  Thank you for following me, please check in at anthonyweiner.com.

But honestly, Wolf, just take a step back and listen to where we are now.  You’re going back to my Twitter feed, and other people who are not even me, not even a congressman, somebody who didn’t sign up for this, someone who said at their tweet about a congressman and now you’re asking me to explain why they did that.

Where do you, in your mind, does this investigation or this story — at what point does someone say, you know what, we’ve kind of jumped the shark here, this has gotten a little bit crazy?

I don’t know who the woman is.  I followed her for a moment.  And then someone started tweeting, oh my goodness, Anthony Weiner is following someone in that industry.  And I immediately, not wanting to cause trouble for her or —

BLITZER:  Did you send her a direct message?

WEINER:  I — most likely what she’s referring to is, as a pro forma thing, thank you for following Congressman Anthony — thank you for following me, please stay tuned to anthonyweiner.com for updates of other things going on.  That’s probably what she’s referring to.

But please, I want to ask you.  Does this person — what did she do, beyond tweet something that she’s a follower of mine?  You can probably find hundreds of people that did that.  And I just would hope that you would leave these people alone.  I mean, come hound me, but they didn’t do anything wrong for following me on Twitter.  I mean, honestly, is that really where we’ve come to?

BLITZER:  I guess one of the questions is, you deleted some photos from your Twitter account.  Why did you do that?

WEINER: I had no idea what happened that night, and I was a little bit freaked out by it. I deleted everything.

BLITZER: Have you asked some of your followers to delete photos —

WEINER: From my Facebook account?

BLITZER: No, from your Twitter account.

WEINER: No, I haven’t. I mean, I’ll tell you what happened that night. I mean, I was literally there tweeting about hockey. For those of you who follow my Twitter, my bloody TiVo didn’t record enough time, so I missed the end of the Tampa Bay-Boston game. I’m a big hockey fan, and I tweet about hockey.

And I see this thing pop up. I immediately delete it. OK? I immediately delete the photo — I thought I deleted – I mean, I’m not a hundred percent sure – I deleted the photo and then this – this — without any password or anything, I was able to get into the account where this photograph was hosted somehow. And I deleted that and other photographs in there as well, although it was nothing very controversial in there. But I deleted everything, and I immediately tweeted “my system has been hacked.” You know, darn it.

BLITZER: Are you protecting anyone?



WEINER: I’m protecting my wife, who every day is waking up to these insane stories that are getting so far from reality. You know, we’ve been married less than a year, to watch her watch these stories, get crazier and crazier about what essentially a prank, a hoax. You know, we went to bed that night not batting an eye. This was a goofy thing that happened.

She married a congressman. She knows a little something about living in public life. She knows with that goes a certain amount of, you know, aggravation. I don’t think she imagined that it would be this, these bizarre stories about people who are connected to me by eight or nine rings of connection on social media. I’m protecting her the best I can.

I can handle myself. These poor people getting dragged into this with these more and more bizarre conspiracy stories. I’m protecting people who are so offended when CNN puts this Breitbart guy on and says the most outlandish things about complete, innocent people. You know, I can take the flack, but at some point I say I’m not going to do any more questions about that, it is to some degree to protect a certain amount of integrity to of all of us. That we are in this place, that we’re constantly having this conversation about something that was essentially a prank.

BLITZER: I know your wife. She’s a great lady —

WEINER: She doesn’t deserve this.

BLITZER: And you’re a very lucky man to be married to her.


BLITZER: She works for the secretary of state house for a long time. How is she handling all?

WEINER: Well, she’s bemused. She’s got some experience, and she’s not a public person, as you know. She went the entire campaign in 2008 with probably most Americans not knowing that she was the traveling chief of staff to Hillary Clinton. She’s a remarkable, remarkable woman. As my friend Heath Schuler once said about her, I’ve out-kicked my coverage.

And you know, that something like this would take on this — that I would wake up this morning and see on a blog, you know, some of the attractive women that Anthony Weiner follows and one of them is my sister-in-law. I mean, it’s gotten bizarre.

And I know that you’re doing your job. You know, I get that. You’re trying to follow the story. Maybe it’s because it took place on Memorial Day weekend, there’s a lot of pent-up demand or something like that.

But I would just hope that you would understand that you know what? Sometimes things are what they appear. Sometimes a prank is a prank. And that’s what I’m trying to treat it that way. But hopefully my marriage survives my first anniversary.

BLITZER: I hope it does, too. I —

WEINER: Thank you.

BLITZER: I know you could have resolved this. That performance yesterday was terrible with our Dana Bash.

WEINER: I know that. I would agree with that. I would agree with that.

BLITZER: You’re calling Ted Barrett what you called him – he’s such a nice guy.

WEINER: He was — he didn’t act it the other day. Listen, you have certain — I have a certain rights as a citizen, as a human being, to be treated with some level of respect. Someone yelling at me, someone hectoring me – I —

BLITZER: He wasn’t yelling at you.

WEINER: No, he was actually hectoring me in the middle of Dana Bash’s questions.

But let me just stipulate to this rather than relitigating (ph) in whether he is or is not a jackass. I’ll leave it to someone else to decide.

Let me just say this, is that I did not do that well yesterday. But look at it through my lens. Saturday this thing breaks in the middle of the night – or in the wee small hours of Saturday. I tweet about it, basically saying that I was hacked. Saturday, we put out a statement resolving questions about it. It wasn’t me, I don’t know this girl, etcetera. The next day, well, we’re going to report it. Then somebody put a statement out about that.

The following day – Monday is our Memorial Day Weekend, by the way, Wolf. Memorial Day weekend, we take a walk, some cameras out there staking out my house. Talk to them. A crew I think, from CNN. Talked to them. So when I got here Tuesday, this notion that I don’t care what is going on on the House floor, I don’t care what issues the middle class are facing today, I don’t care what kind of challenges there are, we are going to talk to you about this whether you like it or not.

OK. I had made a decision, I’m drawing the line. I’m not going to talk about this anymore. Did I draw it in too stern of a way? Was I too – was I too taciturn? That’s why you and I are sitting here today. That I regret the way I handled it yesterday, and I’m trying to deal with it better today.

BLITZER: Do you still want to be mayor of New York?

WEINER: Put it this way: it’s the only better job than the one I have, and just imagine how many Weiner jokes will be in play, you know, when you become mayor. But you know, the thing I’m really focusing on now is it’s a tough two years coming up. The presidential reelection. I’ve got to get re-elected.

And we have this really seismic battle going on, the likes that I have not seen in my 13 years of Congress. That – you know, the Republicans are really laying out a firm ideological stand. They’re not trying to fudge it too much, that is diametrically opposed to the things that I believe on Social Security and Medicare and the like. And it’s that rare moment in American civic life where sides aren’t blurring. They’re really going to their corners. And I – I — here’s a lot of work to do here because I know which corner I’m in

BLITZER: All right. We’re going to leave it on that note. Just to recap, you didn’t send that photo to that woman in Washington state.

WEINER: I did not send it to that woman in Washington state.

BLITZER: But you’re not 100 percent sure whether the photo is actually you?

WEINER: What I am going to say is that we’re doing everything we can to try to answer that question, but we’re doing an investigation. I want to caution you. Photographs can be doctored, photographs can be manipulated, can taken from one place and put in another. And so – that’s — and I want to make it clear this is, in my view, not an federal case. In my view, this is not an international conspiracy. This is a hoax, and I think people should treat it that way.

BLITZER: And you’re still leaving open the possibility of going to law enforcement?

WEINER: Look, as I’ve said a couple of times in this interview that I’ve left this in the hand of people that know this stuff far better than I. I am not treating it like a federal case. It doesn’t look to me like one. It looks to me like what it is. When your name is Weiner, people do Weiner jokes about you on the Internet all the time. Unfortunately, people get hacked and people — you know, identities get blurred all the time. So, I’m leaving it up to the investigation but I’m certainly not treating it like a federal case.

BLITZER: Congressman, thank you very much.

WEINER: You bet, Wolf. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: You could have done this yesterday, by the way.

WEINER: Touche.

BLITZER: That’s it from here.