Can Conservative Media Stomach Another Week of Weinergate?

Roger Ailes has told his Fox News to "move on" while Andrew Breitbart doubles down

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Weinergate, with its lewd photo evidence and awkward press conferences, is a TV producer's dream. While a prudent newspaper editor will always tell the newsroom to advance a story rather than dwell on reported facts—this is cable news. Add in the possibility of embarrassing a rising-star Democratic legislator—red meat for the Fox News crowd—and you'd imagine that Roger Ailes would be pretty happy right now.  But the Fox News president told his newsroom to "move on" from the controversy surrounding Rep. Anthony Weiner's alleged twitter photo unless a new development manifested itself.

"The media's had enough giggles over Mr. Weiner and his name," said Ailes, in an interview with The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz. "Sometimes the families take a bigger hit than the person that people are trying to destroy."

The uncharacteristic quote is all part of Kurtz's thesis that Ailes is starting to sound "strangely reasonable these days" as his detractors depict him as "power mad, paranoid, and a GOP puppeteer."

"Part of his genius is that when he faces hostile fire, Ailes can turn unexpectedly mellow," writes Kurtz, "the better to make his critics look like the loony ones." Other moments of Born Again reasonableness arise in his ability to compliment the president: "He shot that SOB in the head that killed 3,000 Americans. That was his finest hour," and even expressing an interest in employing Hillary Clinton. "I'd like to hire Hillary. She looks unhappy at the State Department. She'd get ratings."

Ailes's order notwithstanding, other conservative media activists show no sign of dropping Weiner from their news agenda. Andrew Breitbart doubled down on the scandal on Monday morning dangling a report that it had a stash of incriminating material from Weiner's online history. In Breitbart's introductory post about their "bombshell", he promised, "The detailed new information suggests that the Brooklyn- and Queens-based representative and the young woman in question were involved in an online, consensual relationship involving the mutual exchange of intimate photographs." Two hours later, the first picture was not terribly scandalous: seen at right, Weiner holding a card saying "Me." Update: Breitbart did come through, however, with a slightly more cringe-inducing photo, allegedly sent to the same woman under the subject "Me and the pussys":

It will be interesting to see if the Fox News network resists the urge to follow Breitbart's lead. If so, it would certainly break with the practices of another News Corp. property coming under fire for its Weinergate coverage: the New York Post. Gennette Cordova, the woman Weiner's tweet was allegedly sent to, has been decrying the tabloid's coverage—saying she was quoted by the Post's Reuven Fenton in a conversation in which he never identified himself as a journalist. “You got that information surreptitiously and then passed if off as an interview,” she tweeted. “Then you proceeded to take my quotes out of context and STILL I don’t see how it’s newsworthy.” The Washington Post has the details:

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.

The Post's story was also picked up by Politico, which dressed it up with a nice, tabloidy headline: “Seattle student: Weiner photo likely meant for porn star.” Cordova, in turn, is also giving the DC newspaper some guff, The Washington Post reports:

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.

In a tweet, Cordova knocked both paper's. “If you want to know my position on this whole thing,” she tweeted Friday, “I suggest avoiding @Newyorkpost and @politico. It’s pure slop.” Both papers said they stand by their reporting.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.