Media Buzz

Why the press is fixated on Anthony Weiner, mayoral loser

Despite fading poll numbers, press fixated with controversial New York City mayoral candidate


Howard Kurtz’s program “Mediabuzz” airs Sundays at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET.

With the campaign in the home stretch, you might think the national media spotlight would fall on Bill de Blasio, who polls show to be in a commanding position to become New York’s next mayor.

Or perhaps the national press might be taking a closer look at his nearest rivals, Bill Thompson and Christine Quinn.

Nuh uh. It’s still all about Anthony Weiner.

Guess who was on Meet the Press yesterday? Someone who might actually be moving into Gracie Mansion? Nope, Anthony Weiner.

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And what did Weiner do to deserve this? He went on a rant after some moron started heckling him at a Jewish bakery in Brooklyn about being “married to an Arab.”

Weiner unloaded on him: “You’re a perfect person? You’re my judge? What rabbi taught you that?” And he didn’t stop there.

Sure, the cell phone video was a YouTube classic. But let me put it bluntly: Who cares?

I made this point on "Mediabuzz": Weiner is mired in the single digits heading into Tuesday’s Democratic primary. His campaign, launched two years after a sexting scandal forced him to resign from Congress, imploded after the improbably named Sydney Leathers emerged to say they had raunchy online and phone conversations after Weiner had vowed to swear that off.

The media love a good sex scandal, so it’s understandable that Weiner’s entry into the race, and the revelations about still more sexting, became a national soap opera. Weiner is also a colorful and confrontational candidate who knows how to play to the cameras.

But what explains the fascination now that he’s an also-ran?

The answer: Weiner is a celebrity, and the others are not.

His story is about sex, and their story is about policy.

Still, the political stakes for the nation’s largest city are considerable. After 20 years of Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg, New York is virtually certain to elect a Democratic mayor—and the most liberal of the bunch, in the person of public advocate De Blasio, is leading the pack. 

That means a sharp change in direction for the city, to say the least.

Quinn, the early front-runner, would be the city’s first female mayor, not to mention the first lesbian to hold the office. She and Thompson are vying to make the runoff if DeBlasio fails to win 40 percent of the vote.

Now it’s not true that the national media are only pursuing Weiner. They’ve also developed an interest in the city comptroller’s race, perhaps because it includes one Eliot Spitzer, the former governor who resigned after hiring high-priced call girls.

Noticing a pattern here?

What explanation is there, other than a ratings ploy, for NBC’s Sunday morning show airing Savannah Guthrie’s sit-down with Weiner, as opposed to someone who might win the primary?

Guthrie asked legitimate questions, such as this one about the ex-congressman’s everything’s now fine People interview with his wife Huma Abedin, while he was back sexting again.

“Does that not show a capacity to look someone in the eye and lie, not just your wife, but a reporter, but the public?” Guthrie asked. 

“Look, I was working through things,” Weiner said. But this was basically rehashing old news.

The Weiner saga is fascinating, no question about it. If journalists want to keep chasing the guy, be my guest. 

But beyond the New York press, it’s a shame that it comes at the expense of a serious look at the city’s next mayor, whoever that turns out to be.

Obama vs. Assad: The Faceoff

Turns out the president will have some competition when he sits down to argue his Syria case today with Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer, Scott Pelley, Chris Wallace, Wolf Blitzer and Gwen Ifill.

Charlie Rose scored a sit-down with Syrian President Bashar Assad, which will also air today on CBS and PBS. The veteran anchor has interviewed the Syrian strongman before.

I’ll have more to say tomorrow on whether the president’s television blitz helped him ahead of his big Oval Office speech on Tuesday.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.