Tag Archives: Anthony Weiner

Hugh Hefner and Reality TV

I guess if he gave any thought to this at all, Hugh Hefner would most likely think it’s weird that I’m sitting here at 3 a.m. in my pajamas pounding out a blog post for my millions thousands handful of daily readers. After all, Hef sits around all day in a bathrobe, surrounded by beautiful women some 60 years his junior, overseeing a publishing empire that I expect is worth millions.

Still, the latest story about Hef strikes me as more than a little weird.

In case you have been spending all your time waiting for a tweet from Anthony Weiner and missed the news, Hef and his fiance, Crystal Harris, have called off their nuptials scheduled for this weekend and slated to be filmed for broadcast on the TV network Lifetime. OK. To take the advice of the great American philosopher Forrest Gump: shit happens.

Still, here’s where the Hef story takes somewhat of a strange turn. The New York Post reported yesterday — and Jonathan Capehart opined about it in WaPo — that Crystal planned to ditch Hef at the alter in front of the TV crew and sell an exclusive interview for $500,000. I report. You decide.

Here’s from the New York Post article:

Hugh Hefner‘s wedding to Crystal Harris was called off after she secretly planned to ditch the Playboy mogul at the altar in return for a $500,000 media deal, Page Six has exclusively learned.

Harris, 25, was shopping for a big-bucks deal to tell all after she ditched hapless Hef, 85, in front of 300 guests at their wedding at the Playboy Mansion on Saturday, to be filmed for a Lifetime TV special.

Yesterday it emerged that the pair had called off the wedding following an argument on Sunday, and the blond bride-no-longer-to-be immediately moved out of the mansion.

Harris had reportedly been secretly seeing Dr. Phil McGraw‘s son, Jordan, for months behind Hef’s back. Jordan is her songwriting partner, and they were seen cozying up at the Chateau Marmont in March.

A source told us, “Crystal wanted to ditch Hef at the altar. Her plan was to walk up the aisle and say she couldn’t go through with it. The wedding was to be filmed for a reality special, and her refusal to marry him would be a sensation. She was looking for a tie-in deal of around $500,000 for the exclusive ‘I ditched Hef at the altar’ interview. While there was interest, Crystal didn’t get an offer anywhere near half a million.”

The former Playmate started dating Hefner in January 2009, and they got engaged last December. It is not known if the Sunday argument was sparked by Hef finding out about her plan to humiliate him. But Harris’ manager, Michael Blakey, told us reports about her cheating with Jordan were “absolutely incorrect” and “total fiction.”

Of her plan to ditch Hef in return for a lucrative media deal, Blakey said that was “not true, to my knowledge.” He said of their split: “I have no idea what happened. All I know is that it was an amicable breakup.”

The cancellation is unfortunate timing for Playboy: Its July issue hits newsstands Friday, with Crystal on the cover. The coverline, according to sources, is “America’s Princess: Introducing Mrs. Crystal Hefner.”

This is interesting in kind of a bizarre way. But I’ll admit it. I wouldn’t have watched the wedding — or not — and any subsequent interviews.

Saying that, I wonder if any of the reality TV producers tried to film the conversation between Congressman Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, who returned to DC yesterday following a trip to Africa with her boss Hillary Clinton.

Now that would be interesting.

Just sayin’.

Photos That Don’t Lie: Giffords and Weiner

To say the least, there is a lot wrong about the story involving Anthony Weiner. And it’s not just about morality, ethics, decency and common sense. It’s about how these and similar situations — involving elected officials both Republican and Democrat — diminish the public’s view of government and those who we elect to represent us and make the tough decisions in the public interest.

The point. For every Weiner there are many more like Gabrielle Giffords who have a sincere interest in public service and who often pay a terrible personal price to stand up and be counted in a forum that should reflect the best that this country can offer.

And two photos released over the weekend tell just about everything you need to know about the contrasts between the two members of Congress. One shows Giffords celebrating the miracle that she is alive and progressing toward recovery after being shot in the head by a madman while she was meeting constituents in Arizona.

And the other shows Weiner — and you have to wonder what triggered that madness.

In the midst of all the commentary about Weiner, here’s an interesting opinion article in the NYT by Ross Douthat, “The Online Looking Glass“:

At 46, Weiner isn’t technically a member of Generation Facebook, but he’s clearly a well-habituated creature of the online social world. The fact that he used the Internet’s freedoms to violate his marriage vows isn’t particularly noteworthy. That’s just the usual Spitzer-Schwarzenegger routine performed on a virtual plane. What’s more striking is the form his dalliances took — not a private surrender to lust or ardor, but a pathetic quest for quasipublic validation.

In all the tweets and transcripts that have leaked to date, there’s no sign that Weiner was particularly interested in the women he communicated with — not as human beings, certainly, but not really even as lust objects either. His “partners” existed less to titillate him than to hold up mirrors to his own vanity: whether the congressman was tweeting photos of his upper body or bragging about what lurked below, his focus was always squarely on himself. If Bill Clinton was seduced by a flash of Monica Lewinsky’s thong, Weiner seems to have been led into temptation primarily by the desire to boast about his own endowments.

In this sense, his tweeted chest shots are more telling than the explicitly pornographic photos that followed. There was a time when fame and influence were supposed to liberate men from such adolescent insecurity. When Henry Kissinger boasted about power being the ultimate aphrodisiac, the whole point was that he didn’t have to worry about his pecs and glutes while, say, wooing the former Bond girl Jill St. John.

Not so in the age of social media. In a culture increasingly defined by what Christine Rosen describes as the “constant demands to collect (friends and status), and perform (by marketing ourselves),” just being a United States congressman isn’t enough. You have to hit the House gym and look good coming out of the shower, and then find a Twitter follower who’s willing to tell you just “how big” you really are.

Writing in the late ’70s, Lasch distinguished modern narcissism from old-fashioned egotism. The contemporary narcissist, he wrote, differs “from an earlier type of American individualist” in “the tenuous quality of his selfhood.” Despite “his occasional illusions of omnipotence, the narcissist depends on others to validate his self-esteem.” His innate insecurity can only be overcome “by seeing his ‘grandiose self’ reflected in the attentions of others, or by attaching himself to those who radiate celebrity, power and charisma.”

This is a depressingly accurate anticipation of both the relationship between Weiner and his female “followers,” and the broader “look at me! look at meeeee!” culture of online social media, in which nearly all of us participate to some degree or another.

Facebook and Twitter did not forge the culture of narcissism. But they serve as a hall of mirrors in which it flourishes as never before — a “vast virtual gallery,” as Rosen has written, whose self-portraits mainly testify to “the timeless human desire for attention.”

And as Anthony Weiner just found out, it’s very easy to get lost in there.

Here’s a news flash.

While chasing the treadmill early this a.m. I heard on Fox News that the city of Dallas is going to proclaim Tuesday LeBron James Day.

And in honor of the King’s ability to disappear during the fourth quarter in any game that means anything, all workers in Dallas will be able to leave their jobs 12 minutes early.

Ouch.

Anthony Weiner and Crisis Communications

For pajama-clad citizen journalists, the Anthony Weiner Twitter debacle is the content gift that keeps on giving. And things are heading south for the congressman to such an extent that he had to call Bill Clinton and apologize for a sex scandal. That’s rich.

Weiner represents a very liberal and Democratic dominated district in New York. He may be able to survive this mess, especially if it turns out that he did not violate any laws. But what does this say about some of the people we elect to represent us, about the news media, and about the standard advice that most everyone has memorized now about crisis communications?

E.J. Dionne Jr. has an interesting perspective in his WaPo article, “Anthony Weiner and the tweet road to oblivion“:

At what point do we decide that a political system has become decadent?

The breaking point for me was the Anthony Weiner story, not just or even primarily for what he did but because it came at the end of what old Thomas Jefferson might call “a long train of abuses.” You really do wonder what’s happening to our democracy and those who serve it.

The Weiner circus is bad enough. Social networking has taken us where human nature always threatens to go: downward. Do we want to give politicians incentives to limit their thinking to 140 characters? Will Weiner’s experience — and former congressman Chris Lee’s adventures on Craigslist — encourage politicians to question whether constituents want anything close to the level of detail about their lives that fans expect from pop stars and marquee athletes?

Weiner’s self-destruction is a terrible blow for cable television bookers and will create a certain sadness among liberals who are short of troops willing to take it to the other side from one five-minute news cycle to the next. And let’s simply stipulate that all the negative adjectives being thrown Weiner’s way are justified.

What’s amazing is that the Scandal Management Handbook, 36th edition, offered him the perfect way out. When caught, fess up immediately, declare right from the start that you are a victim of a terrible addiction, go into treatment and disappear for a while.

You are rarely challenged these days when you take a loss of virtue and turn it into a medical condition. And you avoid the problem of encouraging your allies to defend you on a matter about which you know you are guilty. Weiner’s congressional colleagues are reluctant to defend him because they accepted his denial and feel badly burned.

The advice from the public relations handbook on how to manage a crisis is essentially as follows: take responsibility, disclose the bad news as quickly as possible, offer a sincere apology, initiate steps to correct the problem.

Weiner understood this up to a point. According to Politico, he even offered to provide PR assistance to a “porn star” and sexting buddy. Here’s from the story:

The next day, Weiner asked Lee if she needed assistance in crafting a message to put out to the press and public. “Do you need to talk to a professional PR type person to give u advice? I can have someone on my team call. (Yeah, my team is doing great. Ugh).”

It’s not clear, though, if Weiner was referring to having someone on his congressional staff help her – which might violate House rules – or wanted a private sector PR consultant to help Lee handle press inquiries. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi said on Monday that she has ordered an ethics probe of Weiner and the New York Democrat said he would cooperate.

Maybe it’s time to rewrite the textbook crisis communications response to emphasize two key points that Weiner and others in similar situations apparently don’t get.

  • Tell the truth
  • Don’t do things that are going to trigger a crisis
Wonder what advice Bill Clinton gave the congressman?
Just askin’.
 

Weiner and Sarah: Apology?

OK. I said last week that I wasn’t going to touch the Weiner story. But the story that paints the New York congressman as an ethically challenged social media guru — someone expert in both digital photography and texting — is too rich to pass up this early a.m. And it’s one of two stories dominating the news cycle. The other. The midnight ride of Sarah Palin.

In the PR biz, the standard advice in crisis management is to take responsibility — and apologize. Congressman Weiner was a little late in taking responsibility, or even admitting any involvement in sending photos of himself to woman around the country. But he sure knows how to apologize.

Here’s from Dana Milbank, opining in WaPo, “Anthony Weiner’s apology-fest“:

Have you received an apology yet from Anthony Weiner? If not, you haven’t been listening.

He apologized to his wife: “I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife, Huma.”

He apologized to the young woman he sent the lewd photo to on Twitter: “We exchanged some text messages, mostly for me to express my abject apologies for how she got dragged into this.”

He even apologized to his main tormenter, the conservative publisher of BigGovernment.com: “I apologize to Andrew Breitbart.”

Anybody left out? “Everyone that I misled — everyone in the media, my staff, the people that I — that I lied to about this — they all deserve an apology. . . All of you who were misled, the people who I lied to, I have an apology for all of them.”

In all, Weiner spoke of an apology or apologizing or being apologetic 19 times in his news conference during which he finally came clean — or partially clean — about his rude behavior with women in social media. He offered up the word “sorry” 11 times, expressed “regret” 18 times, spoke of his responsibility 14 times, and used various and sundry other expressions of shame and remorse.

Regrets were offered to “my constituents, my friends, supporters and staff,” to “the many people that put so much faith and confidence in me,” to “the people I care about most.”

Wow. And to think I used to make big bucks advising people to do that. I digress. Well, if nothing else, it looks like Weiner knows how to apologize.

Then there is Sarah. And the great thing about her is that she never says she’s sorry.

The latest flap. She kinda put a new spin on the old story about Paul Revere while she was visiting Boston during her non-candidate bus tour. And not only is she not apologizing, she says she is correct and her supporters are rewriting history.

Here’s from WaPo — and for you believe in media conspiracies to undercut Sarah get this, the writer is Rachel Weiner — “Fight brews over Sarah Palin on Paul Revere Wikipedia page“:

Supporters of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin have taken to Wikipedia, where they have been trying all weekend to revise the page on Paul Revere to reflect her recent comments.

In her trip to Massachusetts last week, Palin flubbed the history of Revere’s ride, saying that he rode through Boston ringing bells to warn the British that the revolutionaries were armed and ready to fight. Revere actually rode quietly, to warn the revolutionaries that British troops were headed their way.

As first noticed by the blog Little Green Footballs, Palin fans have been attempting to add her version of the story to Revere’s Wikipedia page — a source of research information for more than half of college students. Other users have been deleting the changes as they appear, arguing that what Palin said in the past week should be kept separate from a page about an event that happened hundreds of years ago.

Palin is hardly alone among politicians for getting American history wrong. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) made a similar gaffe on a trip to New Hampshire earlier this year, placing the battles of Lexington and Concord in that state.

Where Palin is unique is in her — and her fans — defiant attitude. Bachmann admitted on Facebook that “it was my mistake” and turned it into a joking jab at Massachusetts. Palin, on the other hand, went on “Fox News Sunday” this weekend and defended her version of events.

“I didn’t mess up,” Palin said. “I answered candidly and I know my American history … Part of his ride was to warn the British that we’re already there.”

Defending Palin, some commentators have pointed out that Revere did tell the British about armed colonial militiamen — after he was captured and held at gunpoint. According to “Paul Revere’s Ride” by David Hackett Fischer, Revere was trying to lead his captors away from Lexington (where Sam Adams and John Hancock were hidden) by saying that danger awaited them there.

And for those who delight in advancing the “Sarah is stupid” mantra, here’s a story on NPR with host Melissa Block that quotes Professor Robert Allison, Chairman of the History Department at Suffolk University, as saying that, ah, Sarah basically got the Paul Revere story right.

BLOCK: So Paul Revere was ringing those bells? He was a silversmith, right?

Prof. ALLISON: Well, he was – he also was a bell ringer. That is, he rang the bells at Old North Church as a boy. But he personally is not getting off his horse and going to ring bells. He’s telling other people – and this is their system before Facebook, before Twitter, before NPR, this was the way you get a message out is by having people ring church bells and everyone knows there is an emergency.

And by this time, of course, the various town Committees of Safety, militia knew what the signals were, so they knew something was afoot. So this is no longer a secret operation for the British.

Revere isn’t trying to alert the British, but he is trying to warn them. And in April of 1775, no one was talking about independence. We’re still part of the British Empire. We’re trying to save it. So this is a warning to the British Empire what will happen if you provoke Americans.

BLOCK: And Sarah Palin also was saying there that Paul Revere’s message to the British in his warning was: you’re not going to take American arms. You know, basically a Second Amendment argument, even though the Second Amendment didn’t exist then.

Prof. ALLISON: Yeah. She was making a Second Amendment case. But, in fact, the British were going out to Concord to seize colonists’ arms, the weapons that the Massachusetts Provincial Congress was stockpiling there.

So, yeah, she is right in that. I mean, and she may be pushing it too far to say this is a Second Amendment case. Of course, neither the Second Amendment nor the Constitution was in anyone’s mind at the time. But the British objective was to get the arms that were stockpiled in Concord.

BLOCK: So you think basically, on the whole, Sarah Palin got her history right.

Prof. ALLISON: Well, yeah, she did. And remember, she is a politician. She’s not an historian. And God help us when historians start acting like politicians, and I suppose when politicians start writing history.

I’m just reporting the news.

Sorry about that.

Jobs and the 2012 Presidential Election

OK. I’m not going to touch the Weiner story. And with fretting over the congressman and his Twitter account, Sarah Palin and Snooki, the lamestream media have their hands full these days. Hope reporters, editors and TV Talking Heads don’t miss the big story: the economy, jobs and how this could play out in the run for the White House this year and next.

It now appears that the U.S. economy — in the midst of a jobless recovery from recession — is beginning to slow. Here’s from WaPo, “U.S. economy: Manufacturing slowdown the latest sign the recovery is faltering“:

The economic recovery is faltering, and Washington is running out of ways to get it back on track.

Two bright spots over the past few months — manufacturing and job creation by private companies — both slowed in May, according to new reports Wednesday. The data come amid other reports of falling home prices, declining auto sales, weaker consumer spending and a rising pace of layoffs.

Just a few months ago, the economy seemed poised to finally strengthen. Business confidence was rising, and extensive government efforts to foster growth were underway. But those hopes are being dashed. Forecasters who once projected economic growth of 3.5 to 4 percent for the year have slashed their estimates with each round of disappointing numbers.

Instead of accelerating, the U.S. economy is puttering along at a growth rate of 2 to 3 percent — barely enough to bring down joblessness slowly, if at all.

That means that millions are unemployed, many are underemployed and others have given up looking for work altogether. That’s not good news for Prez O as he looks to keep his job in 2012.

Here’s from the NYT, “Economic Data May Be Key to Obama’s Job“:

No American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent.

Seventeen months before the next election, it is increasingly clear that President Obama must defy that trend to keep his job.

Roughly 9 percent of Americans who want to go to work cannot find an employer. Companies are firing fewer people, but hiring remains anemic. And the vast majority of economic forecasters, including the president’s own advisers, predict only modest progress by November 2012.

The latest job numbers, due Friday, are expected to provide new cause for concern. Other indicators suggest the pace of growth is flagging. Weak manufacturing data, a gloomy reading on jobs in advance of Friday’s report and a drop in auto sales led the markets to their worst close since August, and those declines carried over into Asia Thursday.

But the grim reality of widespread unemployment is drawing little response from Washington. The Federal Reserve says it is all but tapped out. There is even less reason to expect Congressional action. Both Democrats and Republicans see clear steps to create jobs, but they are trying to walk in opposite directions and are making little progress.

Republicans have set the terms of debate by pressing for large cuts in federal spending, which they say will encourage private investment. Democrats have found themselves battling to minimize and postpone such cuts, which they fear will cause new job losses.

House Republicans told the president that they would not support new spending to spur growth during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday.

“The discussion really focused on the philosophical difference on whether Washington should continue to pump money into the economy or should we provide an incentive for entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow,” said Eric Cantor, the majority leader. “The president talked about a need for us to continue to quote-unquote invest from Washington’s standpoint, and for a lot of us that’s code for more Washington spending, something that we can’t afford right now.”

There really are some big fish in the skillet these days: government spending, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and the war in Afghanistan among them. But when we get to making decisions in 2012, we’re going to be looking at jobs and the economy. And as a nation, we might not like what we see.