Weiner boxing with press over briefs doesn’t serve us well

Friday, June 3, 2011

Did Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner tweet a picture of himself in his underpants to a woman in Washington state? Was his Twitter account hacked? Was the picture of him? These are all legitimate questions, and news reporters have been asking them. The New York congressman’s reactions, however, have not suited the dignity of his office.

It’s not just that he’s been evasive. Officials have the right to answer questions however they see fit.

But if you’re going to evade questions, you shouldn’t be surprised when reporters continue to press for clear answers. Or irritated. Or borderline abusive: During testy exchanges with CNN’s Dana Bash and others on May 31, Weiner called a journalist in the group a jackass.

Weiner has suggested that the press is out of line for asking about all of this. It’s not. Pursuing stories to try to nail down the truth is the job of the free press.

The congressman has so far refused to call for any law enforcement investigation into the photo transmission, calling such a government inquiry an unworthy use of resources, according to the Associated Press today. Yet it apparently was a worthy use of government resources for his staff to call the U.S. Capitol Police after CBS New York reporter Marcia Kramer went to Weiner’s office to ask for an interview.

That sort of action smacks of harassment and intimidation of journalists for posing inconvenient questions. It doesn’t square well with the part of the First Amendment that says “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom … of the press.”

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