|Rep. Anthony Weiner: 'The Picture Was of Me and I Sent It'|
|By CHRIS CUOMO, CHRIS VLASTO and DEVIN DWYER (@devindwyer)||Jun 6, 2011, 2:34 PM|
Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York said today he has engaged in "several inappropriate" electronic relationships with six women over three years, and that he publicly lied about a photo of himself sent over Twitter to a college student in Seattle over a week ago.
"I take full responsibility for my actions," Weiner said. "The picture was of me, and I sent it."
The announcement came as ABC News prepared to release an interview with Meagan Broussard, a 26-year-old single mother from Texas who provided dozens of photos, emails, Facebook messages and cell phone call logs that she says chronicle a sexually-charged electronic relationship with Weiner that rapidly-evolved for more than a month, starting on April 20, 2011.
ABC News reached out to Weiner earlier today for comment about his possible ties to Broussard, but he did not respond to requests for an interview. At a press conference later, Weiner confirmed Broussard was one of the women with whom he sexted.
Broussard's story had threatened to expose the secret online life of one of the House Democrats' most popular members, and a man many considered a leading candidate for mayor of New York City.
It also raised new questions about Weiner's explanation for how a photo of a man's groin area ended up on his public Twitter feed on May 27. Today the congressman said he accidentally sent the image to a woman, Gennette Cordova, who was following him on Twitter, as a joke.
"I just chuckled," Broussard, a nursing student, said of her reaction to Weiner's initial response to the Twitter incident. "It would be one thing if he came out and said, 'Hey, so what?' But now he's saying he got hacked?"
Broussard said she received the same photo of a man's crotch on May 18 in an email from a man who she then believed was Weiner.
Weiner told ABC News last week that the Twitter incident was a "prank" on him, but he neither confirmed nor denied at the time that the photo depicted his body. "I am reluctant to say anything definitively about this," he said of the photo.
Broussard, who describes herself as disinterested in politics and previously unaware of Weiner, said that she has never met the congressman in person and doesn't "think he's a bad guy." And, she said, she participated in risque online chats -- as she has done with other men online -- with the man she presumed to be Weiner.
During one flirtatious Facebook chat last month, Broussard said, she issued the man on the other end a challenge.
"I asked him to take a picture and write 'me' on it so I would know," Broussard said in an interview.
The reply, she says, came moments later. Email records provided to ABC News by Broussard show that at 3:08 p.m. on May 5th she received a message from email@example.com, which is listed as an email address for Weiner on one campaign document found online.
The message included an image of a man, who appears to be Weiner, sporting a tie and a wedding band, holding up the message "me" on a piece of white paper.
"I didn't think it was him," she says. "I thought for sure, 'why would someone in that position be doing this?'"
Broussard said she wanted to come forward now out of concerns for her own image as an aspiring nurse, and that of her 3-year-old daughter, should her identity be leaked online. More than a dozen photos sent by Broussard to firstname.lastname@example.org and a second account she believed was Weiner's were obtained and licensed from her by ABC News.
"I have my own life, my own things where I'm from and I just wanted to go ahead with them. I thought I could just be private about it, but there's no reason for me to hide," she said. "I didn't do anything wrong. I don't know him. I'm just putting my story out there before anyone else tries to."
Broussard said she confided about her experiences with several close friends, including one with Republican political ties. The man, whom she declined to identify, encouraged her to share her story with Matt Drudge and conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart.
Breitbart, who first published details of Broussard's story on Biggovernment.com, shared her identity with ABC News.Weiner Friended Broussard on Facebook
Broussard said her first contact with Weiner occurred on April 20 after she "liked" a YouTube clip of one of Weiner's speeches that had been posted to his Facebook page.
She also commented -- "hottttt" -- on the link, which is still publicly visible on Weiner's page and has received hundreds of other comments from Facebook users.
Weiner "almost immediately" added Broussard as a Facebook friend through his personal profile account, she said. And she accepted his request.
According to Broussard, the two immediately began messaging through Facebook chat, eventually exchanging "hundreds of messages," many of a sexual nature.
Because of how Facebook messaging works, ABC News was not able to view records of the alleged chats.
He would say "just good morning, how are you doing, what are you doing today? What are you wearing? What do you like? You know, in the bedroom, you know, that sort of thing," she said.
During one Facebook chat conversation, Broussard said she voiced uneasiness with the electronic relationship, to which she says Weiner replied, "you are not stalking me....I am stalking you."
In another conversation, Broussard said she asked Weiner, "Why are you so open? I said, I'm not an open book like that."
"He replied, 'I'm an open book. Maybe too open,'" she said.
Occasionally while chatting through Facebook, the two would simultaneously use email to exchange photos, she said.
Two images Broussard received from email@example.com on May 4 and May 5 show what appears to be Weiner's face.
One, sent under the subject line "Me and the pussys," appears to show Weiner seated on a sofa in an undershirt next to cats; the other appears to depict Weiner in an office holding the white piece of paper. Both appear to have been sent via Blackbery, according to email records.
Later in the month, Broussard received three, more graphic images from the address RockOh77@yahoo.com, which she said was Weiner's online alias.
A Google search for the "RockOh77" email address returns only one website – a profile for the user name on Invisible.ir, which is described as a web tool that allows "hiding your images from others." On the page are three previously-unseen thumbnail photos of a bare-chested man that appears to be Weiner.
On May 18, Broussard received an image from the RockOh77 account that shows a man's erect penis. Two days later, she received a shot of a bare-chested man sitting at an office desk. The man in the photo shares facial features with Weiner, and personal photographs in the background resemble his known aquaintances.
"I don't think he has any control over what he's doing in this area," Broussard said. "I don't think someone can be that open in that amount of time."
The relationship between Broussard and Weiner only ventured out of the digital world once, she said, when a man identifying himself as Weiner called by phone from a number associated with Weiner's New York congressional office on the afternoon of May 18.
"The day he called he just said, 'Who in the world would be acting like me?' laughing about it," she said.
"You're an internet rat, aren't you?" Broussard said she asked him, to which Weiner just sort of giggled.
Then, she says, the conversation got personal. "He heard her [Broussard's daughter] in the background, I think, and he said, 'Oh is that --' and then he said her name, and I said, 'yeah, it's her birthday,' and that kind of freaked me out because you had to pilfer through my Facebook to find out her name."
After they hung up, Broussard said she called the number back to see if it was actually him. A Weiner office receptionist answered, she said. Broussard provided a record of the call to ABC News.
Their last correspondence, she says, was through Facebook message on May 27, just hours before the alleged "hack" of Weiner's Twitter account occurred.
"Are you offline?" Broussard wrote at 3:37 pm. "Crashed back up," Weiner replied at 4:21 pm. Broussard last sent messages via Facebook and email to the man she believed to be Weiner on May 31, but has not received replies.
"I don't think he's a bad guy. I think he's got issues just like everybody else," Broussard said. "Everyone's standards are different, but to be elected to Congress and sit there all day on Facebook and chatting?"