The XX Factor

The Case for Tolerating Left-Wing Lotharios

Did he or didn’t he? That’s the question everyone’s asking after Rep. Anthony Weiner’s twitter account sent a photo of a boxer-brief-covered bulge to an unsuspecting co-ed over the Memorial Day weekend. Most mainstream news outlets gave the incident only glancing mention until yesterday, when Weiner’s bizarre equivocations raised suspicions that the politician might not be completely innocent.

Why didn’t this salacious, potentially career-destroying story generate the same insta-circus as “Craigslist Congressman” Chris Lee’s beefcake photos or any one of the many GOP sex scandals over the last several years? It’s due in part to the journalistic torpor of the long holiday weekend, but-let’s be honest-it’s also because he’s an outspoken liberal. And that’s not a bad thing.

Conservatives might cry foul over the double standard in reporting on sex scandals for Democrats and Republicans, but it’s justified. There’s the low-hanging fruit of hypocritical “family values” zealots who get caught, quite literally, with their pants down cheating on a spouse. But it’s more than that. In the case of Republicans, who have been waging a fierce legislative war on women , they’re not just screwing around on their wives, they’re screwing over millions of American women and families by eliminating reproductive freedom, undermining equal pay laws, and restricting access to affordable health and child care.

For those on the left, like Rep. Weiner, it’s easier to disregard their potential sexual missteps as a character flaw limited to the home life. In his career as a lawmaker, he has been an emphatic advocate for women. (NARAL gave him a 100 percent rating.) In fact, on the day of the mysterious tweet, Rep. Weiner had finally succeeded in getting Clarence Thomas to disclose his household’s $700,000 profit from health care reform opponents, a massive conflict of interest should the Affordable Care Act ever reach the Supreme Court.

That’s not to say, of course, that illegal sexual conduct, like assault or harassment, which an unsolicited crotch shot might be, should go unpunished. But when it comes to garden-variety consenting-adults fare among left-leaning pols, I can understand why some reporters might want to just step away.

Photograph of Rep. Anthony Weiner by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.