On May 22, the Hill published a claim based on a second hand report that alleges former Congressman Anthony Weiner was set up by political opponents to smear Hillary Clinton. The initial report, published in WhoWhatWhy, claims the girl who texted Weiner lied about her age being 15, that she was actually 16 years old (which they misleadingly cite as “almost 17” to further propel their narrative.)
The report doesn’t offer an explanation for why Weiner and the US Attorney office didn’t disclose the “revelations” this report claims to have found, nor did the report obtain any comments or confirmation from the FBI, US Attorney office, or Weiner and his attorneys. WhoWhatWhy even claims that regardless of what Weiner’s plea agreement said, and the US Attorney and FBI investigators in a press release, there was no evidence cited in the initial Daily Mail report that Weiner knew the girl was 15-years-old.
Nicholas Biase, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of New York in charge of Weiner’s case, confirmed to me in email that the teen victim was 15-years-old at the time she was communicating with Weiner, “yes, Weiner used online messaging and video chat applications to communicate with a minor girl he knew to be 15-years-old,” Biase said.
The Hill merely reported WhoWhatWhy’s claims rather than try to follow up with the FBI or the U.S. Attorney’s Office; “That also puts her above the age of consent in North Carolina, which is 16,” the Hill noted in reference to WhoWhatWhy’s claim. Even if this were proven to be true, this citation tries to excuse Weiner’s behavior toward a girl who in his mind was 15 years old, and fails to cite federal and New York State law, in which even if Weiner engaged in the same behavior, would still be illegal. Weiner committed a crime, and this theory from a small investigative reporting site tries to amplify the role of Weiner’s case in the Presidential Election and frame him as a victim of a political conspiracy.
While the Hill dedicated a paragraph to tout the credentials of WhoWhatWhy’s leading journalist Russ Baker and author of this report, they left out several aspects of Baker’s record, their sole source for this theory that has been shared over 15,000 times and trended at the top of the Hill’s most read articles for over a day. In Baker’s 2008 book, Family of Secrets, he claims that the Bush family are connected to the Watergate scandal and the assassination of JFK (he also subscribes to several JFK conspiracy theories as well). He made an appearance at the “Treason in America Conference,” a gathering of 9/11 truthers, in 2010. He alleged the Boston Marathon bombings might be a false flag operation, and claimed one of the bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was recruited by the FBI.
BuzzFeed published a report in early November that Weiner’s victim was upset over FBI Director James Comey failing to notify her and her family that the investigation was linked to Clinton’s email server. BuzzFeed also published an open letter from the teen criticizing Comey as well. BuzzFeed reporter David Mack tweeted in regards to WhoWhatWhy’s report “There is a lot wrong with this original report. The author reached out to me last month for help in reporting & I declined,” Mack said. “I agreed to keep a lot about the family secret, but I can say that several of the key claims this story makes are false.” He added, “This report is typical of the conspiracies among the left about this family. Astonished that the Hill would lend any credence to it.”
The WhoWhatWhy report argues these BuzzFeed reports, based on their reporters allegedly researching the teen and her parents’ Facebook profiles, were just a smokescreen. They then go on to speculate “it is conceivable that this was a set-up from the beginning, with the objective of embarrassing the Clinton campaign.”
The report goes further into this theory, based on the notion that its plausible, and the evidence they do have to fuel the report’s own speculation is conveniently hidden behind the veil of anonymity for the victim. “It’s not yet clear whether the motive was primarily money, a plot to smear Clinton, or both,” wrote WhoWhatWhy. The publication then goes on to interview notorious anti-gay journalist Charles C. Johnson to try to corroborate their speculations, a journalist banned from Twitter multiple times who even Louise Mensch has called “the red-headed, bespectacled boil on the bum of journalism.”
This new report on Anthony Weiner resembles conspiracy theorist Louise Mensch’s own baseless claims that Weiner was catfished by the Russians as part of a sinister plot to bring down Clinton. She claimed a Russian hacker was sexting with Weiner, not a teenage girl, only to recant part of her theory after Weiner’s recent guilty plea, only to double down on that theory to resemble more of WhoWhatWhy’s speculations, in which they concluded in their report, “although the evidence WhoWhatWhy has compiled could actually mitigate Weiner’s case, he has not responded to requests for comment either.”
The Hill publishing this report widely circulated what amounts to little more than a conspiracy theory at this point, and will remain one until actual evidence is derived and provided to the public to corroborate these claims. Until then, its political catnip for Clinton loyalists desperate to erect scapegoats for Hillary Clinton’s election loss to Donald Trump.