By Daniel Strauss - 06/02/11 12:20 AM EDT
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) reacted in jocular fashion Wednesday to the escalating media circus surrounding him regarding a lewd message sent last week from his Twitter account.
In response to a question about whether the tweet deserves an investigation from the U.S. Capitol Police or FBI, he told MSNBC, “I’m not really sure it rises — no pun intended — to that level.”
“I won’t mind telling you that even for someone that went through the Clinton years, this has been a befuddling experience,” he said.
The congressman gave several interviews Wednesday and was swarmed by reporters off the House floor, as attention grew and questions remained unanswered concerning the image of a man’s crotch that was sent to a college student Friday via Weiner’s Twitter account.
Weiner did not deny that the image sent might have been of him. Instead, he maintained that he did not send the racy photograph, and reiterated that he had been hacked.
“I believe this is a case of someone sending a nuisance Twitter making fun of my name,” he said.
The edgy New Yorker skirted at least one pertinent question: Were there pictures of him in his underpants floating around that could be manipulated?
“There are photographs of me in the world, yes,” he said.
Pressed if any of those photos depicted him in his underwear, Weiner declined to comment.
“I’m trying to draw a line here because I don’t want this to get further,” he said. “We don’t know where this photograph came from [or] if it has been manipulated, which is a possibility.”
Weiner said he’s retained an “Internet security firm that’s going to give us advice on what steps to take.” He defended his decision not to press for an official investigation, noting he has more than 45,000 Twitter followers.
“I’m a member of Congress, but I’m also a citizen,” he said. “There’s nothing official about someone sending [spam].”
In a later interview on MSNBC with Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night Weiner said he was open to making public some of the findings of the security firm's investigations into the hacking as long as it didn't directly relate to his accounts or security.
"That's a fair request," Weiner said.
Though Friday’s offending tweet was quickly removed, that did not happen quickly enough to elude the blogosphere. The New York Daily News soon dubbed the controversy “Weinergate.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) weighed in on the growing flap.
“I have confidence in Anthony Weiner that if an investigation is in order, that will take place,” Pelosi told ABC News.
Throughout Wednesday, Weiner fended off questions about the tweet. The scrutiny grew after he told MSNBC that he could not say “with certitude” that the photo was not of him.
For the most part, he stayed lighthearted. For instance, Weiner teased Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) off the House floor about who boasts the bigger fan club.
“I have more Twitter followers than you, Ryan,” Weiner said.
“You do these days, that’s for sure,” Ryan replied, laughing. “You’ve got to give me tips!”
Still, Weiner was fairly humorless in denying that he sent the photo.
“I didn’t send the photograph,” he said. “My account was apparently hacked, or somehow people got access to it.”
Weiner said some of the questions he’d been asked surrounding the tweet were fair, but also urged the public not to lose perspective.
“It’s fair and reasonable to ask some of these questions, [but] it was a prank,” he told MSNBC. “We have to be careful not to take this out of context. This is not a national security matter. We’re not making a federal case out of this, and I don’t think anyone else should.”
He added, “The things that I do want to work on here in Congress are being interrupted by this, which I think was the intention of the person that did it to begin with.”
Andrew Restuccia, Molly Hooper and Mike Lillis contributed reporting.
This story has been updated at 8:20 p.m.