In the immediate aftermath of the picture, which depicts a man’s underwear-clad groin, surfacing, the New York Democrat insisted his account had been hacked.
But, he has grown more vague — and combative — in recent days, an approach that has stoked suspicion and led some New York Democrats to speculate about the damage he could be doing to his expected mayoral bid in two years time.
In an interview with NBC’s Luke Russert Wednesday, Weiner would not comment on whether the image in question was of him. “I can’t say with certitude,”he said. “My system was hacked. Pictures can be manipulated. Pictures can be dropped in and inserted.”
Weiner did add that he had not sent the picture out and described himself as the “victim of a prank”.
“This is about silliness, and I’m going to brush it off my shoulder,” Weiner added.
Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic consultant, said that the Weiner story wouldn’t be going away. “Sex wakes everyone but the dead,” said Sheinkopf. “This is a major story in New York City. No answered questions [and] no resolution equals more scandal, more sex, and a wounded Weiner.”
While not everyone shared Sheinkopf’s certainty in the political danger posed to Weiner by the controversy, there was broad consensus among Democratic strategists in New York that unless the Congressman can find a way to explain the situation — and quick — he runs the risk of hurting his future political prospects.
“If he doesn’t call for an outside investigation of the ‘hacking’ this incident will dog him throughout the entire campaign,” predicted one New York Democratic consultant granted anonymity to speak candidly.
Weiner media consultant Jim Margolis said he talked to the Congressman on Wednesday morning and insisted that the controversy was much ado about nothing. “He didn’t send it, got pranked, and no, I don’t think it has any impact on whether he runs for mayor,” said Margolis. Margolis noted that Weiner would be doing a series of interviews aimed at explaining himself.
But, it’s clear the combination of the tawdry nature of the story, Weiner’s high and hard-charging profile — he is a regular guest on cable news talk shows — and the shark tank that is New York City politics are rapidly mixing to create a dangerous concoction for the Congressman.
“It’s spiraling out of control, and not sure where it ends,” said one New York-based Democratic strategist. “It’s never good when the [New York] Post takes a hold of something potentially salacious and certainly fun and runs with it.”
Weiner is considered one of the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination when three-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) will step aside in 2013.
Weiner ran for mayor back in 2005, finishing second to then Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer in the primary and winning himself considerable good will among party insiders by not pursuing a runoff. He was widely expected to run again in 2009 but after Bloomberg was able to overturn the two-term limit on the mayorship, Weiner declined to run.
Weiner is likely to face a crowded field if he does run for mayor in 2013. Former comptroller William Thompson, who narrowly lost to Bloomberg in 2009, New York City Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn are all mentioned as possible Democratic candidates.