Recipient of lewd tweet criticizes New York Post story via Twitter

June 5, 2011

Gennette Cordova tried, really tried, to hold her tongue when the news media began stampeding her way last week. After word broke that she was the recipient of a now-infamous photo from Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account, Cordova was suddenly in demand.

No interviews, said the 21-year-old college student. No comments about congressmen’s crotches, either. Stop asking and go away, she said.

Only the media wouldn’t. The New York Post apparently found a way around Cordova’s defenses: One of its reporters, Reuven Fenton, apparently tagged along on what Cordova thought was a student photo shoot and casually chatted her up while a photographer snapped away.

His story, ballyhooed as an “exclusive interview” and headlined “Lewd-pic recipient worn out by Weiner scandal” ran in Friday’s edition. Cordova is featured on the newspaper’s cover next to an inset picture of Weiner (D-N.Y.).

That’s when Cordova turned from reluctant news source into fiery media critic. Via Twitter, of course.

“I was ‘Trojan horsed’ by an NY Post reporter who never said who he was or that he was interviewing me,” she tweeted.

Addressing the New York Post and Fenton, she tweeted: “You got that information surreptitiously and then passed if off as an interview.”

She added, “Then you proceeded to take my quotes out of context and STILL I don’t see how it’s newsworthy.”

According to Cordova, Fenton posed as a photographer’s assistant during the photo session in Bellingham, Wash., where Cordova attends community college. He then “interviewed” her by casually asking a few questions, she said, but without identifying himself as a reporter or saying he was writing a story. Both are generally considered ethical breaches — as Cordova, a journalism student, pointed out by posting a link to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.

Cordova refused The Washington Post’s request for an interview about the story and said on Twitter that she has denied “every single interview request” she has received. She is using only the micro-blogging site to “clarify” suggestions, from some members of the media and fellow tweeters, that she is a publicity hound.

“If I’ve refused to do interviews with credible shows like Good Morning America, why would I give an interview to @NewYorkPost?” she tweeted. Again, rhetorically addressing Fenton, she tweeted: “Why would I do an interview with a tabloid about how I don’t want media attention? Trash.”

Fenton said he was unable to comment and referred calls to his editors. Suzanne Halpin, a spokeswoman for the New York Post, said, “We stand by our reporting.”

Cordova’s ire was further stoked by Politico.com, which rewrote the New York Post story Friday and gave it a tabloid-worthy headline: “Seattle student: Weiner photo likely meant for porn star.”

Politico’s story repeated such details as Cordova’s comment that she’d become “collateral damage” in the quasi-scandal and that the photo sent from Weiner’s account might have been intended for a stripper and porn actress whom Weiner follows on Twitter. That woman has a first name, Ginger, which is similar to Cordova’s.

Only Cordova says she didn’t exactly say that to the New York Post or Politico or anyone else. “I clearly remember you suggesting the idea about the pornstar,” she tweeted, again addressing Fenton, “as well as me being ‘collateral damage.’ ” She said she had said “maybe” when Fenton raised the porn-star angle.

“If you want to know my position on this whole thing,” she added late Friday, “I suggest avoiding @Newyorkpost and @politico. It’s pure slop.”

Jennifer Epstein, who wrote the Politico article, declined to comment.

John Harris, Politico’s editor in chief, said he was not aware of Cordova’s claims about the New York Post’s story or Politico’s follow-up. “We’ll look into that,” he said.

“I can appreciate that it’s a difficult situation for anyone who lands in the news unexpectedly,” Harris said. “We have been responsible at Politico in our reporting interactions with Gennette Cordova and fair in how she has been referenced in our pages.”

In reply to a tweeter who questioned whether her tweets were “stirring the pot” in a self-defeating manner, Cordova offered a defense that might be worth remembering in the age of instant celebrity: “If calling out publications for their inaccurate/ shoddy journalism is stirring the pot, so be it.”

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post's media reporter.
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