Weiner confession: Another crazed cable spectacle

Congressman Anthony Weiner had not yet even appeared at the podium, and already Fox News hosts Neil Cavuto and Bret Baier had used the adjective "bizarre" three times in a space of 20 seconds to describe what was unfolding.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer would later use the word "surreal" to characterize the press conference the 24/7 cable TV channels brought us in all its live and unfiltered craziness. Is there anything on prime-time entertainment TV that can compete with this?


First, into a hotel room packed to the gills with reporters and cameras waiting for Weiner to confess his online and social-media sins, comes conservative media entrepreneur and agent provocateur Andrew Breitbart at the podium.

According to one report, Breitbart was in New York, heard of the press conference scheduled for 4 p.m. East Coast time, and showed up to claim vindication from all those in the "left-wing" media who alleged that Breitbart had hacked Weiner's twitter account and was responsible for all the trouble Weiner found himself in last week.

And then, comes Weiner admitting that the crotch shot now seen by millions was indeed an image of him, and yes, he did send it to a 21-year-old college student in Washington State -- all acts he denied last week. He went on to acknowledge multiple online, social-media and phone relationships with women before and after his marriage -- sounding like someone in a confessional.

That's one of the things this spectacle was about, after all; it was another moment of public contrition in our TV culture. This is how you seek forgiveness for your sins in media-saturated, exhibitionist America -- not in a whispered private conversation with a clergyman or clergywoman and God, but rather through a public performance in front of the cable TV and network news cameras.

Without getting too sociological, there is also a major piece here about social media and how they intersect with the character flaws of those who use them. But before we get too cosmic on that front, remember Weiner said he also had phone relationships with some of his mediated mistresses. Phones are not exactly new media.

Here's some video from ABC News of the woman who helped flush Weiner out of last week's nest of lies. The video includes a limited look at some of the images he was sending out. (Memo to Jon Stewart: The mainstream media did just fine on this story for all the snarky wrongheaded criticism you offered last week. Maybe your friendship with Weiner clouded your judgment.)

Weiner said at least 20 times that he took full "responsibility" for his actions, and he apologized to everyone from his wife to Breitbart and all the other media types to whom he lied.

Let's not dance around this: Sending those images to college-age women is a sick and despicable act. Any man or woman who supports him is a hypocrite. On the issue of judgment alone, he should resign from the House. He is clearly out of control and needs help -- and citizens should not be footing the bill for that. Nancy Pelosi has called for an ethics investigation. Let's hope she does an honest one and doesn't rig the deck in his favor.

But what a great afternoon of cable TV news.

Last week, in response to a post I wrote expressing my dismay at the spectacle of Sarah Palin debasing our history with her Bus Tour of Narcissism, Eric Deggans, my good friend and much admired colleague at the St. Petersburg Times, sent a tweet my way quoting one of his former editors.

"What's bad for the country is usually good for the columns," he wrote.

That is certainly true of Weiner's disgrace Monday.