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How to Handle Scandal: Anthony Weiner

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What we know:  Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner became the center of scandal when he admitted to sending racy pictures of himself to multiple women using Twitter. Weiner made the admission after the pictures first became public. At first, it was unclear whether the representative from New York was actually depicted in the photos, but when pressed, Weiner eventually admitted that he had sent pictures to six women using the social media service.

Sometimes events in the news – no matter how distasteful  – find their way into the classroom. This may happen due to student curiosity or lack of understanding, or because a scandalous event has far-reaching impact. When this happens, it's important to decide what you can and cannot say as an educator.

Individual schools and districts may have policies guiding teacher responses to sensitive issues, and we urge you to consult with an administrator before addressing these topics. At the very least, however, we'd like to help you fully understand the story. How to Handle Scandal features will appear when the news dictates and will be updated as details change.

In the initial pictures that were made public, Weiner was clearly being suggestive by posing in his underwear, but he was technically clothed. In a picture that became public after Weiner's admission, the subject – believed to be Rep. Weiner – appears naked. That picture has not been officially released, but it has been published on the Internet after conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart showed the picture to the hosts of Sirius XM radio'sOpie & Anthony Show. Breitbart, it should be noted, specifically declined to make the picture public, but a video of the picture was taken by the in-studio cameras, and a picture taken from that video has been released by the radio hosts.

The New York Times reported that Huma Abedin, Weiner's wife, is pregnant with the couple's first child. Abedin, a close aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has not spoken publicly on the scandal, but Rep, Weiner's representatives said that the two do not intend to split. Rep. Weiner and his wife have social ties to the Clintons, and former President Bill Clinton officiated at their wedding.

Weiner held a press conference addressing the issue, where he admitted sending the original pictures. In regards to the naked photo, he released the following statement through a spokesperson.

"Rep. Weiner...took responsibility for his actions; he has sent explicit photos. He has never met any of these women or had physical contact with them."

The fallout:  Republicans immediately called for Rep. Weiner to resign from Congress. A growing chorus of Democrats added their voices to the group, calling for him to step down.

On June 12, 2011, Weiner's representatives released a statement that he had entered an undisclosed treatment facility. They did not provide information on the reason for the congressman's treatment.

Although Weiner initially said he would not resign, growing pressure forced him to do so, 10 days after admitting that he lied about sending the text messages and photos. NBC News confirmed on June 16, 2011 that Weiner called Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Steve Israel to inform them he had decided to resign.

Weiner later entered the 2013 New York City mayoral race, but as the election approached, he  lagged behind other candidates. This same year, he admitted to exchanging additional explicit online messages with a woman, who has said the messages were sent after his resignation.

 

Potential issues to discuss in class:

  • Did Weiner make the right decision to resign?
  • Should he have faced censure?
  • What personal rules about use of social media tools could have prevented this scandal? See Lesson Plan Booster: Think Before You Hit "Send"
  • What do we make of the fact that Weiner did not seem to immediately accept responsibility for his behavior? (At the initial press conference, he seemed to dodge the question of whether it was actually he who appeared in the photos.) How might he have acted more "honorably" at that time?
  • Do you think Weiner was right to run for New York City mayor? Would you have voted for him?

 

Article by Daniel B. Kline, EducationWorld Contributing Editor
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