So there it is.
In a press conference on Monday afternoon
, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) finally admitted that he took some racy photos, sent them to a young woman on Twitter, and lied about doing so for 10 days.
He also admitted to carrying on “communications” with six women he met online, mostly on Facebook.
During the presser, Mr. Weiner said numerous times that he was giving the press conference because he wanted to “accept responsibility.” But he’s not going to resign. Or stop using Twitter. Or Facebook. Or seek counseling. And he’s going to seek another term.
Mr. Weiner’s lack of sacrifice makes him appear more like a man cornered into finally admitting an obvious truth than a man deeply committed to taking responsibility for his actions. And I’m betting the public will perceive his apology as yet another sign of a self-serving politician who wants to do just enough to make amends with his devastated wife without making any of the real changes that demonstrate self-sacrifice.
Short of resigning, he should have refused to address his aspirations for another term, pledging instead to first discuss his future plans with his family. He should have said he was immediately turning his Twitter and Facebook feeds over to his staff so they could communicate official business on his behalf. And he should have said he would get help for his obvious compulsion to engage in self-destructive behavior.
Instead, he took the tone of an indignant fifth-grader: “I said I’m sorry, okay?”
Poll: Would Anthony Weiner be more likely to survive the scandal if he had been honest the moment this crisis broke?
Mr. Weiner’s undisciplined performance at his own press conference reinforced the narrative about his immaturity. He delivered his opening statement, in which he admitted he sent the lewd tweet and that more bad news was coming, well enough. He was emotional, seemed genuinely pained by the hurt he caused his wife, and appeared to be ashamed of his behavior.
But his tone became more aggressive as soon as he started taking questions, immediately undercutting the effectiveness of his opening statement. He took dozens of questions, straying far away from any useful messages. After all, headlines that quote him as saying, “I don’t see anything I did that violates…any law or any rule” will read as defensive and clueless.
He should have announced he would take questions for five minutes before returning home to make amends with his wife, allowing him to re-deliver the messages he needed to before exiting.
Weiner could have looked to history for a path back. In 1982, Democratic Rep. Phil Gramm supported President Reagan’s tax cuts and became a pariah in his own party. He resigned his seat, ran as a Republican to get it back, and won.
Mr. Weiner should have considered a similar strategy, resigning his seat and allowing voters to decide if he deserved it back. That would have demonstrated real sacrifice. And it might have been his best chance to restore his stained reputation.
Brad Phillips’ firm, Phillips Media Relations, specializes in media and presentation training. He blogs at Mr. Media Training, where this story originally appeared.