Boston Talks: Is It Adultery If It's Online?

By Adam Reilly

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June 7, 2011

BOSTON — Most politicians who cheat on their spouses do it the old fashioned way: In the flesh. But if you’ve been paying any attention to the news, you know that Congressman Anthony Weiner took a more modern approach by carrying on extramarital dalliances via Facebook and Twitter.

 

On Monday, when the New York Democrat copped to his indiscretions at a press conference, he leaned heavily on the language of social media. “Last Friday night I tweeted a photo of myself that I intended to send as a direct message as part of a joke to a woman in Seattle,” Weiner said. “Once I realized I had posted to Twitter, I panicked, I took it down, and said that I’d been hacked.”

He then admitted to exchanging sexually-charged messages and photos with several women around the country.
 
In this brave new world of sexting and photo-tweeting, are Weiner’s misdeeds any less objectionable because they happened online? Or, to put it differently: Did the congressman actually commit adultery?
 
In Boston Tuesday, some people balked at using the A-word to describe Weiner’s transgressions. But almost no one seemed to think the virtual nature of his missteps was a mitigating factor.
 
“Is it adultery? I just think it was just stupid,” said Christina Luconi of Boston. “To be so stupid, being a sitting congressman, in his office, in his underwear—just the worst judgment ever.”
 
 “When you’re married you swear to God in front of 50 witnesses—you don’t do those things!” said Richie, a Boston man who declined to give his last name. “It’s not the etiquette of the pledge.”
 
At least one person, though, argued that Weiner’s sins were being exaggerated.
 
“I think it is different,” Tania Ortiz of Boston said when asked if Weiner’s online affairs were less objectionable than the traditional, in-person variety. “If you’re having intercourse with somebody, I feel like that’s way more of a reason to be considered a cheater. But if you’re just like sending pictures — that’s wrong too, I’m not saying that’s good. But it’s not as bad as going and having sex with somebody.
 
Anthony Weiner would probably agree. But judging from the response to Weinergate—the public might not be so understanding.



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