Of all the digital postmortems being conducted on Rep. Anthony Weiner’s string of intimate online relationships, the New York Times may have uncovered one of the more interesting and bizarre facts:
A group of self-described conservatives spent months warning women on Twitter not to communicate with the New York Democrat—and Weiner may have been aware of their efforts.
Calling themselves the #bornfreecrew on Twitter, members of the group closely monitored those whom Mr. Weiner was following, taking it upon themselves to contact young women they believed to be “schoolgirls,” and urging them publicly to stay away from him, according to an analysis of posts on Twitter’s public stream.
The existence of the #bornfreecrew is far less sensational than the racy emails and texts allegedly sent by Weiner that have surfaced in the past several days. But it nonetheless suggests exactly how brazen Weiner had become in approaching women via a social media site that leaves a very public trail.
The group’s de facto leader was a Twitter user who identified himself as Dan Wolfe and went by the online handle of @PatriotUSA76. Wolfe is the same user who discovered the now infamous underwear-clad crotch shot that Weiner sent to a college student in Seattle, and was also the one who shared it with conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who then published it the following day.
In the weeks before Weiner sent that photo, Wolfe had promised that a scandal was coming, leading many to believe Weiner’s initial claims that the photo was nothing more than an Internet prank. But it turns out that Wolfe and his online friends were just watching Weiner’s account around the clock:
[E]ven by the standards of modern politics, Dan Wolfe and other members of the #bornfreecrew watched Mr. Weiner’s account with particular ferocity, and a sharp focus on his interactions with women. In several instances the congressman dropped his online contact with women after they were identified by the crew, suggesting that Mr. Weiner might have been aware of its actions.
Among the examples the Times cites of women who Weiner had followed on Twitter only to end contact after the group highlighted the connection: a 16-year-old from California who had started a campaign to get the congressman to be her prom date, and porn star Ginger Lee. (There is no evidence to suggest that Weiner had any inappropriate contact with the 16-year-old.)
Unlike Breitbart, who jumped onstage at Weiner’s mea culpa press conference earlier this week to claim victory, the person who calls him-/herself Wolfe has yet to come forward. The @PatriotUSA76 Twitter account vanished last Friday.
“It now seems that Dan may have had an agenda all along,” Michael Madden, a member of the #bornfreecrew, told the Times. “We don’t know yet what it is. But he never said to me, ‘I’m going to get this guy.’ What he said is that it was not right.”