News You Can Use: ABC Investigates Whether Sexting 'Really' 'Counts' as Cheating?'
Now that former Democratic Congressman and current mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner has been caught, again, sending sexually explicit texts to women, the hosts of ABC's Good Morning America decided to ask the important question: What is cheating?
Regarding the extremely graphic messages Weiner sent, reporter Linsey Davis wondered, "Is texting really cheating?...Do explicit E-mails, texts and tweets, like the ones Weiner sent even count as cheating?" GMA weatherman Sam Champion saw this question as a type of public service, lecturing, "It's a good conversation. I think a lot of people have had that talk lately." [MP3 audio here.]
News anchor Josh Elliott offered some skepticism, admitting that "I can't imagine a lot of people are answering" that sexting isn't cheating. Relationship "relationship coach" Donna Barnes retorted, "Except I think it's a personal choice for everybody."
DONNA BARNES: People have open relationships. So, I think the secrecy part is the part that makes it cheating. But there's many different kinds of intimacy. There's emotional intimacy. There's sexual intimacy. There's physical intimacy. So, he was doing the sexual intimacy with someone else, but not the physical or probably not the emotional because he didn't even know this person.
The segment did include some general acceptance that sexting is cheating. Doctor Karen Ruskin appeared briefly to insist, "Whether it is with words, whether it's with your body, whether it's with your sexuality, it's considered an affair when you are interacting with another human being in secrecy."
But it was Barnes that the GMA crew brought on to discuss the issue. She explained away Weiner's actions, justifying, "And this happened a year ago...It didn't just happen. I think if it just happened, that would be something different."
A transcript of the July 25 segment follows:
JOSH ELLIOTT: Questions about Anthony Weiner. Now for the last couple of days, and the latest round of them, if you will, a question many are asking online: Should sexting be considered cheating? We're going to get into that with an expert this morning.
SAM CHAMPION: Yeah. Is it cheating? It itâ€“ Yeah. It's a good conversation. I think a lot of people have had that talk lately.
ABC GRAPHIC: Candidate Sexting Scandal: How Do You Define Cheating?
ELLIOTT: So many people asking so many questions this morning some of those, Linsey Davis, about exactly what is cheating?
LINSEY DAVIS: Right. And is texting really cheating? And that's what a lot of people are wondering. If you've never met the person, as in the case of Weiner, when he was just texting an alleged stranger. That's a question that we're going get to, ultimately. But, also, last night, his wife, Huma Abedin, not by her husband's side at his campaign event. But in the op-ed she penned for Harpers Bazaar, she tries to answer the question so many other people are asking, why is she still standing by her man?
ANTHONY WEINER: We're going to build jobs for people.
DAVIS: Overnight, Anthony Weiner, hitting the campaign trail without his wife Huma Abedin. But it's Huma and her words of forgiveness --
HUMA ABEDIN: I love him. I have forgiven him.
DAVIS: That have now become for some of us the real story, even overshadowing her husband's mayoral campaign.
JOY BEHAR: She was way too nice in that thing. I mean, he needs to be married to Judge Judy. That's whoâ€“
DAVIS: From TVâ€“
JULIE CHEN: Would you continue to stand by your man?
DAVIS: â€“ to the streets of new york.
WOMAN: I thought to myself, seriously? Seriously, how can she stand in front of all those people and try to make right of it.
DAVIS: And of course, on Twitter. Women around the country, now wondering how Abedin could forgive weiner for another sexting scandal?
COKIE ROBERTS: A woman can't win in this situation. If she doesn't show up, she's a disloyal wife. The guy has behaved so badly, that there's nothing for a wife really to do.
DAVIS: The other question on so many minds this morning. Do explicit e-mails, texts and tweets, like the ones Weiner sent even count as cheating? Our expert says the answer is clear.
KAREN RUSKIN (PsyD): Whether it is with words, whether it's with your body, whether it's with your sexuality, it's considered an affair when you are interacting with another human being in secrecy.
DAVIS: In an essay for Harper's Bazaar, written before Weiner's most recent revelation, she says, "New Yorkers will have to decide for themselves whether or not to give him a second chance. I had to make that same decision for myself, for my son, for our family. And I know in my heart that I made the right one." In an e-mail to supporters, Weiner kinda answers why it happened after we assume it had stopped. He wrote, "It was a terrible mistake that I returned to during a rough time in our marriage. After a lot of reflection, some professional help and a general reorientation of my life, Huma has given me a second chance."
ELLIOTT: Okay, Linsey, some head shaking here in the studio. We want to welcome relationship coach Donna Barnes. And Donna, we see a lot of people are asking this question. I can't imagine a lot of people are answering it differently, though.
DONNA BARNES: Except that I think it's a personal choice for everybody. I mean, people have open relationships. So, I think the secrecy part is the part that makes it cheating. But there's many different kinds of intimacy. There's emotional intimacy. There's sexual intimacy. There's physical intimacy. So, he was doing the sexual intimacy with someone else, but not the physical or probably not the emotional because he didn't even know this person.
ELLIOTT: The one thing that struck me at the press conference, she, Huma Abedin, goes out of her way to say, essentially, I know many of you think differently, but I've decided to forgive him and move on. There's some ownership there.
ROBERTS: Personal choice.
BARNES: Yeah. And I think the fact they have a child together has a lot more to do with that also. But here's the thing. I mean, as a person, she thinks he's a good human being. And behavior can be changed. And quite frankly, I think it's a sexual addiction. So, I think that's a process to change.
CHAMPION: I mean, I totally agree with you. I think that there's -- this clearly, I mean, to be in a relationship with me, this would have to change. I would have to set out a boundary and say, I'm uncomfortable with this and you need to work on it.
ROBERTS: It's out of bounds.
ROBERTS: Why is it the wife is getting a lot of heat here? And some are saying, why is he put her in this position? By running for mayor. And it's just--
BARNES: That's the unfortunate part. It sounds like they made that decision a year ago. And this happened a year ago. It's a little opportune that it just came out now. It didn't just happen. I think if it just happened, that would be something different.
ROBERTS: It's the second time. It just happened. But also. This isn't just one that made him leave office. He did it again
BARNES: That speaks to the addiction. It's like that alcoholic that sees that. You know, and he sees that he's having a hard time and that's probably the way he found comfort.
ROBERTS: Good point.
BARNES: Not appropriate, but he was looking for comfort.
-- Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.