I sense impatience among some of you regarding this Betty and Veronica story. Let me explain why it matters. Someone is out there faking identities and convincing journalists they are real. Someone faked IDs that fooled someone with White House press credentials. There is potential criminal activity here. If Anthony Weiner is behind it, there could be a prosecutable offense. It’s not just resignation, disgrace, and a future re-election bid or CNN show. It’s jail.
Interested yet? Good. There’s also the little matter of the truth. If he didn’t do any of the above, we should know that too. That would be less exciting but still the truth.
And it is still interesting whether Weiner was behind this or not. We get to explore who was behind the deception. It’s a fascinating mystery. If you like spy stories you should love this.
But there has been some crazy theorizing going on. The problem is, people are getting confused about the facts. So let’s get back to basics. What do we know and what do we not know?
Let’s start by clearing away the underbrush. Two journalists — Tommy Christopher and Jen Preston — have muddied the waters by making overly confident pronouncements about the situation. Yesterday I called on both to back up their statements, and both backed away from them.
First, Tommy. we have to back up statements they had made about the Betty and Veronica affair. Tommy recently wrote:
The main thrust of the story was that Rep. Weiner had not made inappropriate contact with “Betty,” and [a point about Andrew Breitbart]. Both of these things are still true.
Last night on the Stage Right show I got to confront Tommy about this oh-so-certain pronouncement. He basically backed away from what he had said and admitted that the best he can say is that there is no evidence of inappropriate contact — quite a different thing from pronouncing it didn’t happen. If you didn’t hear the interview, it is worth your time. Tommy made several amusing pronouncements, claiming that Betty/Nikki and Veronica/Marianela “fooled me into telling a true story” and that “They basically told me nothing.” Quite a change from “The Under-Aged Participants That Add Clarity And Exoneration.”
Now let’s take Jennifer Preston of the New York Times, who said of the Betty/Nikki Reid and Veronica/Marianela Alicea sock puppets:
Now there is evidence that one or more people created two false identities on Twitter in order to collect information to use against him.
“Him” refers to Weiner. Yesterday on Twitter I asked Jen Preston the question I asked her so many times before: how does she know this?
I first asked Mickey Kaus: “WHY are we assuming that people who covered for Weiner are his enemies? @nyt_jenpreston may say so but it makes no sense to me.” She responded: “Leading question, mr. prosecutor. Dismissed.” (You can hear the gavel coming down, can’t you? She does fancy herself the judge, doesn’t she?) I repeated the question later in the day, and she ignored the question several times while responding to others. The closest she came to an answer was this: “Read piece carefully,.again. They told MS [Mike Stack from the PatriotUSA76 crew] they had evidence. Then in elaborate ruse…why? No idea.” Ah, so she doesn’t really know why they were doing this? SarahW clarified the point, and I don’t want you to miss this exchange, so I will blockquote it:
What if they were “collecting evidence” about what Weiner’s contacts would say – but info for Weiner’s benefit?
anything is possible. the key here is to be open to all sorts of possibilities…who knows.
Indeed. I actually agree with that. The problem is this Strange New Agnosticism regarding the motives of the sock puppets conflicts with Preston’s own statement in her news article that the sock puppet accounts were created “in order to collect information to use against him.”
See that word “against”? I helpfully bolded it so you would see it. That was Jen Preston’s confident declaration: that the Betty/Nikki and Veronica/Marianela were Weiner’s enemies. She didn’t know that to true, but she said it anyway. It even ended up being the headline of her piece: “Fake Identities Were Used on Twitter in Effort to Get Information on Weiner.” For all we know, they were used to get information for Weiner.
Of course, I confronted her on this, contrasting her new open-mindedness with the language from her article, and she responded testily: “MS said they offered him evidence they had collected against Weiner. Am done debating w/ a prosecutor. Bring it to a jury.” Heh. But the bottom line is that she is now claiming she knows nothing. As she said to Ace: “Am still looking into all this. I think the key to figuring it out is to remain open to the idea that it could be anyone.”
So forget Tommy Christopher’s pronouncements. He doesn’t know anything. (“They basically told me nothing.”) Forget Jen Preston’s pronouncements. She has no idea either. (“it could be anyone.”)
If you’re feeling especially quixotic, you can ask them to retract or clarify their previous Very Certain Pronouncements that they have now declared inoperative. But I warn you: you won’t get anywhere. They are both invested in the Obama-style “As I have always said . . .” routine of pretending like they aren’t saying anything different today, even though their previous declarations have been shown utterly lacking in foundation.
Well, that took a while. Now that we have spent all this time dispelling some inaccurate pronuncamientos rendered by our journalistic betters, I have no time or energy left to discuss the rest of it. Rather than issue some crazy theory, let me throw this out there for you:
1. Some of the screenshots I linked yesterday — the public messages from Nikki Reid to the Dan Wolfe crew — I believe to be real. I’ll have more to say about this if I get time.
2. At least one of the screenshots looks like a bad Photoshop. Check out the GennetteNicole DM and the way the date stamp jumps upward to the time stamp:
I can’t see how that’s a real screenshot of anything. It looks to my amateur eye like a very bad Photoshop.
3. If Nikki was really pro-Weiner (now we’re entering the realm of speculation), as her statements to Tommy Christopher indicate, then she was possibly trying to peddle some B.S. material to Mike Stack through Marianela. And she was possibly considering making fun of him after he publicized them. The screenshots I published yesterday sound a lot like what Marianela told Stack that Nikki had. So perhaps Nikki is the ultimate source of the stuff we saw yesterday. The person who posted the screenshots is likely either Nikki or someone to whom she gave the stuff.
OK, I said I wouldn’t do any theorizing and now look at me. Let’s get back to facts. Tommy Christopher talked to somebody. He has a phone number. He has the IDs. There are clues. He obviously isn’t my friend any more. Can someone try to light a fire under him and get him to reveal this stuff? A crime may have been committed with the fake IDs.
That’s all I have time for now. Now come on: isn’t this interesting?