Media Buzz

Wallowing in Weiner: New York’s (probable) mayor still Bill who?

Sept. 10, 2013: Democratic mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner makes his concession speech at Connolly's Pub.

Sept. 10, 2013: Democratic mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner makes his concession speech at Connolly's Pub.  (AP)

If I’m Bill de Blasio, I’ve got to be thinking: What do I have to do to claw my way into the national headlines?

I’ve just come from way back in the pack to trounce everyone in New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary, possibly avoiding a runoff. The odds are really, really strong that I’m the next Mike Bloomberg.

I did it with a progressive platform that made a major issue of the city’s growing income inequality, and I’m destined to become a major figure when I move into Gracie Mansion.

And Politico’s headline? “The Lessons of Weiner and Spitzer.”

This isn’t to pick on Politico; it was a good piece about the obstacles facing candidates who have been scarred by sex scandals. But it was all too typical of a media business that made the race about the tabloid fare of the past (Carlos Danger and Client No. 9) rather than the Apple’s future. The pair were the lead of the segment on "Hardball" and various other shows.

As we discussed on "MediaBuzz" last week, I understand the herd instinct on this. Weiner and Spitzer are famous, or infamous; De Blasio, Bill Thompson and Christine Quinn (who would have been New York’s first female and lesbian mayor but plunged from front-runner status) are not.

Even a last-minute attack by Bloomberg, who bizarrely accused de Blasio of running a “racist” campaign by using his family including his African-American wife, didn’t make waves beyond the five boroughs.

It wasn’t that the race lacked for substance. Bloomberg’s legacy, including such controversial policies as stop-and-frisk, were on trial. The two decades of Democratic defeats that date to the Giuliani era are ending.

But Weiner, who conjured up visions of Sydney Leathers (who tried to crash his primary night party), was catnip for the media. 

Thus, the appearance on Meet the Press two days before a contest in which he was mired in single digits. Thus, Lawrence O’Donnell brought Weiner on the night before the voting solely for the purpose of ridiculing him as a weirdo.

Weiner means ratings and clicks. His campaign has been such a train wreck that there is no shortage of rubberneckers. Spitzer conducted a more dignified campaign -- unlike Weiner he didn’t close by giving a reporter the finger -- but the ex-governor lost his city comptroller’s race to Scott Stringer.

Okay, media, so you had your fun. But with the primary over, you’re still making Weiner and Spitzer the lead?

I guess we’re in the entertainment business. Because New York is, y’know, kinda important, 8 million people and all that.

Fortunately, the city’s dailies (all of whom endorsed Quinn; so much for newspaper clout) covered the campaign well.

In examining the winner’s “indignant liberalism,” the New York Times said: “On the outside, Mr. de Blasio’s improbable ascent in the Democratic mayor’s race, from afterthought to front-runner in just four weeks, looked meteoric and spontaneous.

“Behind the scenes, though, it required shrewd maneuvers and hardball politics that seemed incongruous with the candidate’s high-minded image: sidelining the Rev. Al Sharpton, who could have ignited the passion of black voters for William. C. Thompson Jr., the sole African-American candidate in the race.”

Well, I guess we can all move on from Weiner now, right? Right? Unless, as Mediaite suggests, he becomes a cable news host.

Tina Moves On

With Tina Brown leaving my former employer, the Daily Beast, here are takes from Buzzfeed (which broke the story), the New York Times and the Beast itself. 

I’ll have more to say later on.

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.