He said he meant it as a compliment, but it still felt strange last Friday when Anthony Weiner called me and all of my professional peers “cockroaches.”
“I hope you don’t take this the wrong way,” Weiner said ominously, sitting with a table of community newspaper journalists in the Downtown pub Harry O’s, “but community newspaper reporters are the cockroaches of the media landscape.”
The occasion was a “roundtable” for Brooklyn’s weekly newspapers, meant to redirect focus from Weiner’s sexting foibles to his Keys to the City policy platform. The disgraced former Sheepshead Bay congressman and mayoral hopeful plummeted in the polls after news broke of his second round of sextcapades.
It is an established fact that Weiner has trouble keeping pictures of his penis to himself, but last week showed that he has self-control issues even in matters unrelated to sexy selfies. He just can’t seem to stop insulting people.
In a week when the Democratic candidate took heat for calling his 69-year-old opponent “grandpa” at an American Association of Retired Persons forum, raised eyebrows by mocking the accent of a British television reporter, and took flak for telling an NBC reporter to “get a hobby,” Weiner’s office convened us neighborhood scribes in hopes of shifting the focus — and he called us all cockroaches.
“Whatever happens, nuclear fallout, sea-level rise, you guys are going to survive,” the visibly exhausted candidate attempted to clarify, leaning back in his chair and stifling a yawn.
Weiner acknowledged that his colorful compliment may not have sounded as flattering as he intended. And he later brought up his “get a hobby” comment — only he did it to mock the media storm swirling around him as a sorry distraction from the real issues.
“What are they calling it, ‘Hobbygate?’” he asked, appealing to our cockroach-like sense of decency and integrity.
It is true that, in addition to two pitchers of ice water with lemon, Weiner provided us hated household pests with ample policy proposals to chew on. He proposed creating a state identification card for undocumented immigrants that doubles as a debit or food stamp card, for instance, something that has been done in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Haven, Conn. and towns in New Jersey. He talked about creating a city “non-profit czar” to coordinate the response to the next Sandy.
But the controversial candidate — who barely managed to shake his Sandy-sized press entourage for this quiet meeting in the back of an Irish bar — couldn’t help but gloat about the media’s fascination with him. He bragged that when the press scrum follows at his heels, he likes to make the gathered reporters sit through a full explanation of his latest policy packet before entertaining questions — though he admits the questions are still mostly about the appendage that makes his name a constant punch line.
If there is one thing Weiner’s gaffe spree shows, it’s that for a moment there we lost sight of the other body part he’s famous for. After all the turmoil he has been through, now more than ever, Weiner is still the Midwood Mouth.Reach Nathan Tempey at ntempey@cn
©2013 Community News Group
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