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Controversy continued to swirl Tuesday around whether Rep. Anthony Weiner used his Twitter account to send an inappropriate picture of himself to a co-ed in Washington state.
The normally talkative New York Democrat refused to answer questions about a picture of an underwear-clad male’s genitalia posted to his Twitter account. Weiner sought to cast the episode as a distraction being manufactured by conservative opponents.
“I’ve been pranked. I’m not going to spend all week talking about it,” Weiner said Tuesday evening before heading into the Democratic Caucus meeting. “I’m not going to allow this to be what I talk about all week. That’s the idea of a distraction. I’m not going to let it be successful.”
Weiner declined to discuss whether he believes further investigation is warranted. The Daily Caller reported Tuesday that Florida Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns called for a cyberspace inquiry.
“I don’t respond to distractions, particularly ones that include Cliff Stearns,” Weiner said.
Weiner is married to Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Although he is extremely popular in his district, Weiner has flirted with the idea of running for mayor of New York, which could be complicated by a scandal.
The photo has embroiled the Democratic firebrand in a potentially damaging controversy since it was posted to his Twitter account Friday evening.
The picture was deleted shortly after being posted, and Weiner, an avid user of the technology, said he had been hacked, quipping, “More Weiner Jokes for all my guests.”
Since then, Weiner has insisted the photograph is the result of an Internet prank by hackers, and he stuck by that statement Tuesday.
“This is a prank — not a terribly creative one. And it’s a distraction,” Weiner told CNN.
But Weiner so far has not contacted the Capitol Police, the House Sergeant-at-Arms or other Congressional and law enforcement officials to investigate the matter, a decision that has stoked questions.
When asked if answering questions would make the controversy go away, Weiner said, “I’m not convinced of that.”
While Weiner might not want to discuss the photograph, others haven’t been as shy. Conservative activists like Andrew Breitbart have seized on the episode to question Weiner’s ethics and to insinuate that it is inappropriate for a married man to send pictures of himself to college-aged women.
So far, his colleagues are downplaying the episode.
“I don’t think its hurting the party. Somebody hacked into his Twitter account,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday.
“I don’t think it’s going to hurt the party. I don’t think it’s going to hurt Mr. Weiner either,” he added.
Because Twitter is not a part of the House’s technology system and because lawmakers’ personal accounts are not covered by the chamber’s infrastructure, it is unlikely an independent investigation will be launched.
However, House officials have sought to provide members and staff with guidance on protecting their accounts from hackers. For instance, the House Administration Committee circulated a letter to lawmakers’ office May 16 regarding the need to train summer interns on security measures.
“As summer intern season nears, the Committee on House Administration would like to remind member offices about some important IT security measures they should take to protect official information,” the letter says before laying out a series of recommendations, which include requiring IT training for new employees and interns and also requiring interns to sign a “Principles of Behavior” form.
Jessica Brady and Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.