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Weiner aide apologizes for outburst; intern who wrote tell-all accepts

July 31, 2013|By Michael Muskal

The communications director for New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner has apologized for using obscenities in an attack on a former campaign intern who dared to write a worm’s-eye view of the campaign that is destined to become a case study of what not to do in politics.

The attack by Barbara Morgan on former intern Olivia Nuzzi is being widely interpreted as the latest symptom of the problems with the Weiner campaign. But really, can there be a downside to a campaign that starts with a candidate who is a serial abuser of his BlackBerry at the very least and has admitted continuing to send photographs of the male part of his anatomy to women after he was forced to resign from Congress for the same activities?

The latest kerfuffle began when Nuzzi penned an insider account of the campaign for the New York Daily News.

In her piece, Nuzzi wrote that Weiner often called interns “Monica,” a not-so-subtle reference to the sex scandal that led to the impeachment of President Clinton, who engaged in a dalliance with intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton was acquitted of the charges. Clinton, of course, is married to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former secretary of State and New York senator who employed Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, who, like her mentor, has stood by her man and explained away his shortcomings, even through Weiner’s current sexting crisis.

Nuzzi also explained that many people worked on the Weiner campaign just to get close to Abedin and as a way to eventually get to Hillary Clinton, who is weighing her political options for 2016.

After the Nuzzi piece ran, Morgan, in an interview with Talking Points Memo, used several vulgar expletives to describe the former intern. Morgan reportedly said Nuzzi was incompetent at her job and threatened to sue the former intern for violating the sacred cone of silence under which all political campaigns used to operate.

“Man, see if you ever get a job in this town again,” Morgan was quoted as telling Talking Points Memo. Nuzzi may be fortunate that the blowup happened in New York; in Los Angeles, she would never again be able to get lunch.

"As to Barbara Morgan's apology, of course I accept it," Nuzzi wrote on Twitter.

When the report hit, the furor began and Morgan fell on her sword.

“In a moment of frustration, I used inappropriate language in what I thought was an off-the-record conversation. It was wrong and I am very sorry, which is what I said ... when I called and emailed Olivia to apologize,” Morgan said in a statement emailed to reporters, including the Los Angeles Times.

Josh Marshall, editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo, told The Wall Street Journal in an email that the conversation was “definitely on the record.”

There is a whiff of “Casablanca” about the current political snafu. It is like the scene in which Claude Rains as Capt. Louis Renault explains how “shocked” he is to learn that there is gambling going on in the backroom, even though he has often shared the benefits.

Is Morgan the first political operative to use an obscenity to describe someone in the political world in New York? Hardly. There have been press secretaries to prominent officials who were impossible quotes because they used almost nothing but words that couldn’t be printed or broadcast.

Maybe it was the fact she attacked an intern that accounts for the interest?

Probably not. The number of television shows, books and movies on the travails of interns are legion. Interns are always overworked, underpaid (if at all), and demeaned. In some, they have the good sense to take revenge on their abusers. It is hard to believe that in New York, where politics has always been a contact sport, the revelation that interns would want to get close to the Clintons would be a surprise.

Perhaps the easiest explanation is that the New York political and journalistic world is weary of Weiner’s race for the nomination to be mayor. Politicians and editorial boards see him as a distraction and have said they want him to go away. In his latest advertising, Weiner has pledged to stay the course.

Intern-gate is just another log on the fire, along with the departure of a top aide from the Weiner campaign in recent days. Even voters may be tiring. A new poll released Monday found Weiner's support fell from 26% last week to 16%.

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