Former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison on Monday. Some observers claimed that the late Andrew Breitbart would have been happy with Weiner’s sentence.
But Andrew did not need more vindication — not after defying the mainstream media’s attempts to quash the story, not after taking over Weiner’s press conference in June 2011, not after Weiner’s behavior led indirectly to Hillary Clinton’s defeat.
The issue, for Andrew, was never personal.
I worked closely with him on the “Weinergate” investigation. We had been tipped off about Weiner’s social media habits before he accidentally posted the infamous “gray underwear” pic on Twitter, which Andrew saw purely as a result of fortuitous circumstance. But what really drove the story was Weiner’s accusation that someone had “hacked” his account, and the left’s effort to target Andrew as the “hacker.”
Weinergate would have been a three-day story if he had simply admitted his indiscretion. Instead, he made up an outrageous story. Even more outrageously, he invited the nation’s cable news anchors to interview him to protest his innocence.
The media protected him, up to a point. But the media-savvy New Yorker mistakenly believed the Democrats (and he among them), controlled the media, rather than the other way around. And once Weiner lashed out at a journalist, he was doomed.
Nevertheless, Weiner could have made a comeback, and almost did. Americans believe in redemption. He was a serious candidate for mayor of New York in 2013 until he was found to have continued his habits.
He crashed out of the race, only to resurface in 2016 after he was caught sexting with a 15-year-old. His computer, seized by the FBI, also had thousands of Hillary Clinton’s infamous emails on it. She went on to lose.
Clinton publicly blames FBI director James Comey, and no doubt privately blames Weiner as well. But they were her emails, full of classified information, which she had no business hiding on an unsecured server, or sending to aides like Weiner’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Huma Abedin.
It is a travesty that Weiner will be reporting to prison while Clinton walks free after violating federal law for which no “intent,” contra Comey, is required.
The Clintons hurt Weiner too, in a way, by tempting him with power. That might explain why he never really sought treatment for his compulsive behavior after being caught the first time. And nothing else explains Abedin’s decision to stay with him, which likely enabled his behavior.
Weiner may have deferred treatment because he, and those around him, expected that a Hillary win in 2016 would wash away the past.
Now Weiner will have to undergo treatment, as he should have long ago, thanks to his sentence. Prison, which he deserves, will punish but may not help. He will be regarded as a child molester, and may thus be targeted in prison, among those who earned that title violently.
He has nearly destroyed his life. His very name haunts him with the memory of his crime and humiliation. There is no joy to be had in watching any human being undo themselves in such fashion.
There is a line that stands out in the letter he wrote to the judge prior to his sentencing. Weiner said that he suffered an “untreated and even an unrecognized mental disorder that corrupted my judgement profoundly.” The key word is “unrecognized.” Perhaps he included that as a kind of special plea for clemency. But the word “unrecognized” also suggests that he does not understand that millions of other people also wrestle with addictions and compulsions.
With humility, he might even have found some solidarity among fellow sufferers, in a nation grappling with the opioid crisis and other torments.
But Weiner placed himself in a category of his own, almost seeking comfort in notoriety, making himself into a singular, solitary figure, even in self-destruction. And the media, eager to sequester Weiner safely away from his former political allies, have played up the idea that his case is a uniquely bizarre one.
In doing so, they are covering up their own role in protecting — and even enabling — him.
That is because Andrew always aimed beyond Weiner and at the media. They are still doing today what they did then: protecting Democrats and targeting conservatives. Weiner’s fate does not change that.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.