As if the tragic ballad of Anthony Weiner and Twitter couldn't get any weirder: Some unknown persons invented fake identities as high school girls on Twitter, and used those accounts in an effort to dig up dirt on Anthony Weiner—in the process fooling at least one journalist.
A few weeks ago, Mediaite columnist Tommy Christopher wrote a five-page column about two underage girls who'd apparently been in contact with Weiner, and had offered to share messages they'd exchanged with the congressman. According to Christopher, the two girls—whom he called "Betty" and "Veronica"—were being harassed by a group of Weiner-obsessed conservatives on Twitter, and "Veronica" had only offered them the DMs "as a means of getting attention" (which she wanted "for personal reasons I won't go into," Christopher wrote); the parents of "Betty" were, reportedly, livid, and in the column he included "Exclusive... Statements From The Underage Participants And Their Parents."
As it turned out, neither girl existed. Nor did the mother. Christopher, who had seen school IDs and a driver's license, believed that he'd verified the identities of the girls, and of Nikki Reid's mother. But, as New York Times reporter Jennifer Preston discovered when she checked with authorities in California, the driver's license was false; the address listed has no one named Reid in residence; and no one named Nikki Reed or Marianela Alicea is enrolled at Hollywood High, where the girls claimed to go to school.
The identity of the person, or people, behind the fake accounts, is still unknown. As Preston documents, "Nikki" spent a lot of time getting Weiner to contact her:
The @starchild111 Twitter account [Nikki Reid's account], which was deleted two weeks ago, was created in September. There were very few posts on the account until March, when the fictional Nikki Reid began posting comments about admiring Mr. Weiner, including:
"Tweeps my progressive idol @RepWeiner is following me. Today is the best day ever!"
"Today also marks day one of my campaign to get @RepWeiner to be my prom date."
"Will you be my prom date @RepWeiner."
"Everyone please please follow @RepWeiner and tell him to be my prom date."
In fact, "Nikki" went so far as to contact Genette Cordova, the woman to whom Weiner errantly Tweeted a picture of his underwear-covered junk, asking her for advice about getting Weiner as a Twitter follower.
Cordova, a journalism student, seems to have been the only person to realize that "Nikki" was not, in fact, in high school:
Ms. Cordova said that as she looked back on their exchanges, she saw other signs of a fraud. For example, "Nikki Reid" did not have a Facebook account, like most girls her age. And she made references to "The O.C.," the television show (featuring the young Hollywood actress Nikki Reed) that was popular among teenagers but ended in 2007.
"There is no way this girl is in high school," Ms. Cordova said. "No way."
Mediaite has since published an article, authored by columnist Colby Hall, attempting to explain what happened. Christopher was, according to Hall, doing "the yeoman's work of tireless reporting to get to the bottom of the story, motivated by telling the absolute truth," and as such remains unbowed. "Even in hindsight," he says, "the decision to run the story did not create harm, and did, in fact, prevent harm. As a journalist and a parent, I'm not sure what I would have done differently."