Lee Stranahan wondered a few hours ago why the press refuses to touch this angle of the story, despite the fact that Weiner himself pointedly refuse to rule out the possibility that he — inadvertently — chatted with women who are underage. As many of you probably know, Patterico’s written not one but two alarming posts collecting circumstantial evidence that Weiner chatted privately with a 17-year-old girl online and that those chats might have involved more than just a congressman encouraging a young fan to join Model UN or whatever. I admit, although I mentioned his latest parenthetically in this afternoon’s Matthews item, I refrained from highlighting either post in Headlines or on the Blog. Patterico makes a careful, compelling case, but the charge is so radioactive that I didn’t want to showcase it without (a) an accusation from the girl herself or (b) a decision by the police to investigate. Even Ace, who’s been railing at the media over Weinergate for two weeks, admitted in his own post about Patterico’s charges this morning that he understands why reporters might not want to touch the story just yet.
Well, the police are now investigating. No more excuses.
Two officers from the New Castle County Police Department arrived at the girl’s home around 4:30 p.m. and asked to speak with the girl’s mother about the daughter’s contact with Weiner. Another officer appeared at the home a short time later. A FoxNews.com reporter was at the home when the police arrived.
The girl, whose name is being withheld because she is a minor, told FoxNews.com, “I’m doing OK.”
The police left the home after about 30 minutes, followed by the daughter and mother, who left in a separate car. It was not clear if the mother and daughter were going to continue the conversation with police at another location.
I’m giving Weiner the benefit of the doubt for the time being, not because I think he deserves it — every last word out of his mouth for the past two weeks suggests that he doesn’t — but because he’ll never scrub this stain off himself if it’s true. Is there any reason to think a guy who figured he could get away with e-mailing photos of his dangling wand to women he didn’t know would have the scruples to draw a bright-line boundary when it comes to underaged girls? Not really. Is there any compelling reason for a busy, middle-aged congressman to be initiating private chats with a teenager who’d allegedly been cooing about how amazing he is? (See the clip below via Fox News Insider; the girl apparently claims that Weiner contacted her, not vice versa.) Could be he was that nice a guy and wanted to encourage her to engage in public service, etc, but that would be a lot easier to swallow if we didn’t know what we now know after two weeks. Given his endless hallucinatory lying, it’s hard to extend the presumption of innocence, but let’s try until the cops have something to say. In the meantime, read Patterico’s posts, parts one and two. One lingering question: Were the cops reading Patterico too or did some other, better positioned source tip them off about this? And another lingering question: If the worst is confirmed, did Weiner know that she was 17?
Update: Weiner assures his spokesman that all of his interactions with the girl were above board. You trust him, don’t you?
Weiner’s spokesman, Risa Heller, emails: “According to Congressman Weiner, his communications with this person were neither explicit nor indecent.”
Update: A friend e-mails to note the unusual formulation of the statement from Weiner’s office. Maybe it’s nothing, or maybe it’s something. Do press agents usually say “According to the congressman”? They usually just assert or deny things on their boss’s behalf, no? Heller’s statement smacks of, “This is what he told me but I’m not sure if I believe him anymore either.”