After a college student received a lewd picture from the Twitter account of Rep. Anthony Weiner, the New York Democrat seemingly had two choices. He could either duck the controversy or address it head-on.
Instead, on Wednesday, Weiner opted for a third way.
Weiner talked — on cable news and to reporters in the Capitol's hallways — and talked. And around the Capitol "Weiner-gate," as the controversy is being dubbed, was the topic of lunch-table gossip.
But for all that verbiage, Weiner did not answer the single, crucial question on which the scandal hinges: Was it, or wasn't it, the Congressman in the picture sent to that college student in Washington state?
In an interview on MSNBC, the seven-term Congressman couldn't say "with certitude" that it was. Or wasn't. And what started as a frontal public relations assault designed to quell Weinergate seemed to only fan its flames.
The scandal that some say Weiner, considered to be a frontrunner in the 2013 New York City mayoral race, could cool by disavowing the picture with a simple, one-word answer, began in a world bound by 140-character restrictions.
On Friday, a photograph of underwear-clad male genitalia reportedly was sent to a woman via Weiner's Twitter account. Weiner quickly deleted the picture and claimed he was the victim of a hacker.
In his interview with MSNBC, Weiner said he did not post the picture and that he was simply "a victim of a prank."
Weiner told MSNBC he was hiring a private investigator to look into the incident rather than filing a formal complaint with law enforcement agencies. Capitol Police and the FBI have said they are not investigating the matter.
Another cable interview on Tuesday, this one with CNN, similarly boomeranged on Weiner. His exchange with CNN reporter Dana Bash and producer Ted Barrett grew testy when the Congressman refused to answer repeated questions of whether he was the man in the photo. He wound up calling Barrett a "jackass" on the air.
So much for damage control.
And the cringe-inducing moments continued when CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday pressed Weiner about not being able to recognize the underpants worn by the man in the photo. The skivvies "didn't look familiar to me," Weiner avowed.
Although Weiner was talking — about underwear and investigations and pranks — on Wednesday afternoon, most of his colleagues were staying publicly mum on the topic.
"I can't comment on that," House Ethics ranking member Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) said.
Fellow New York Rep. Peter King (R) also steered clear of the issue.
"It's a law enforcement issue, and I'm not going to comment on that," King said.
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