July 23, 2013
Anthony Weiner
Anthony Weiner (Brendan McDermid / Reuters)

What a glorious day for the democratization of media. In an afternoon news conference, New York City mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner addressed allegations that he had engaged in more graphic online, sexual conversations with a woman who’s not his wife. Flanked by his wife, Huma Abedin, Weiner expressed gratitude that she has given him a second chance and noted that his campaign for mayor essentially asks the same of New York City voters. “This is entirely behind me,” said Weiner, who had warned that more such revelations could well surface. Abedin spoke up, too, attesting to the process of healing and forgiveness.

Very little of the freshly revealed back-and-forth between Weiner — who adopted the pseudonym “Carlos Danger” — and an anonymous person can be posted to a family-friendly Web site like washingtonpost.com. Let’s just say that the postings provide insight into the most private, intimate fantasies of this very public man.

What’s notable about all of this — aside, of course, from the towering issues of trust relating to Weiner — is the news source: the self-described gossip Web site TheDirty.com, which grabbed screenshots of Weiner’s racy thoughts, posted elsewhere on the Web, and showcased them for its readers. Based on its own representations, TheDirty.com wouldn’t appear to be the sort of site to cause problems for a high-profile politician. Behold this disclaimer at the bottom of the site:

TheDirty.com, The world’s first ever reality blogger™ is all about gossip and satire. The content that is published contains rumors, speculation, assumptions, opinions, and factual information. Postings may contain erroneous or inaccurate information. All images are credited to their original location. The owner of this site does not ensure the accuracy of any content presented on TheDirty.com.

Unless otherwise specified, that is. In one of his Weiner-related posts, TheDirty.com’s Nik Richie wrote, “My source is solid. She really thought Anthony Weiner and her were in love, they spoke on the phone daily multiple times a day for 6 months. Anthony Weiner played with her emotions and mind.” Some conversations allegedly took place after Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011, and Weiner has acknowledged that bad behavior indeed straddled the resignation date.

All this amounts to a dose of media justice for Weiner. This is a story broken not by some establishment outlet like the New York Times or NBC News or, as in the last go-round, Andrew Breitbart. In this case, the name of the originating outlet matches the character of the transgressions: Dirty!

Have a look at how the story is circulating:

The New York Times: “The exchanges were published on The Dirty, a racy gossip site…”

The Washington Post: “The conversations, posted on gossip site The Dirty,…”

USA Today: “An online gossip site called The Dirty posted screenshots Monday of online messages between an account in the name of Anthony Weiner and that of an unidentified woman.”

Politico: “TheDirty.com this week posted a series of explicit exchanges that allegedly occurred between Weiner and an anonymous source…”

The Erik Wemple Blog reached out to Richie for comment on how this story developed. Through an intermediary, Richie declined the request but passed along this message via e-mail: “Im just doing my job.”

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.