Trolls Thought I Was Anthony Weiner’s Cyber Mistress

Ten years later, I realize I shouldn’t have been ashamed.

harrasment messages phone anthony weiner
Courtesy Megan BroussardGetty Images

Remember 2011? We said the word deets, wore bandage dresses, got hooked on Words With Friends? And Democratic U.S. House Representative Anthony Weiner "accidentally" (he claimed) tweeted out a photo of his penis? And then, on June 6, 2011, he held that press conference saying my name as a woman he sexted? And then, the Internet hated me so much that I had to sleep with the lights on and a baseball bat next to the bed in case the trolls came for me IRL?

That last part may not be seared in your memory, but for me it’s as hauntingly vivid as the Snooki-pouf hair trend I tried that year. (In 2011, a lot of us wanted to look like Jersey Shore cast members.)

On that day in June, I was 23 and working as a social-media manager for a global PR firm with a major airline client in Dallas. I was tweeting variations of “sorry to hear” to angry passengers when I got a call from my apartment building manager. Apparently, a man in his 40s, who knew my full name and address, came by asking when I typically return home from work. Disturbed, my building manager got his phone number for me. I dialed it immediately.

new york, ny   june 06   rep anthony weiner d ny admits to sending a lewd twitter photo of himself to a woman and then lying about it during a press conference at the sheraton hotel on 7th avenue on june 6, 2011 in new york city weiner said he had not met any of the women in person but had numerous sexual relationships online while married  photo by andrew burtongetty images
Then-Congressman Anthony Weiner at that press conference.
Andrew BurtonGetty Images

“ABC News!”

Clearly this was a prank. I went to hang up.

“Wait! Are you Megan Broussard—the Megan Broussard—connected to Weiner?”

Click. I didn’t have time for this; I had tweets complaining about in-flight OJ I needed to handle. But then CNN called and The Houston Chronicle, and my Cajun dad left a voice mail: “Boo, that better not be you!” And my mom texted: “JUST SAY NO COMMENT!” That’s when I knew something serious was up, but I didn’t know what until a coworker swung by my desk.

“So that’s how you got so good at tweeting, huh? All that practice with the ol’ Weiner!” Then he saw my face and realized his dirty, flirty joke didn’t land and he’d have to be the one to explain to me what the hell was going on.

Apparently, a woman with the name Meagan Broussard (pronounced—and initially misspelled in the media—like mine) who lived in Texas and was also in her 20s had been involved in a scandalous online exchange with then-46-year-old New York congressman Anthony Weiner.

What made this coincidence even crazier was that we share the same middle name (Elizabeth) and I was in the process of transferring to my company’s New York office. “Is that why you’re moving? To be with your boyfriend?” another coworker asked.

What was happening?

Then came the ping of death, a Twitter notification on my personal account: “@TMZ is now following you.” I didn’t want to look but had to, especially after a journalist tagged me in a tweet shared with his thousands of followers. After that, all I could do was sit back and watch my online reputation burn.

I eventually became so paranoid that I put the disclaimer “not Anthony Weiner’s cyber mistress” in my social-media bios.

Women shared how they thought home-wreckers like me should die. Men with usernames like @phelon added me to their mailing lists for unsolicited genital portraits. By the early afternoon, I had received close to 100 new friend requests on Facebook—one of whom had a rotting corpse in a wheelchair as a profile picture.

My Facebook wall—remember when we wrote on those?—was blowing up. At least I could count on my hometown friends to recall the goody-goody reputation of my youth and balk at the absurd allegations of me as a high-profile Jezebel, right?

Their basic sentiment: “We support you in anything you do! No matter what the haters say: You are not ugly!”

It was time to deactivate my social-media accounts.

It was also the end of the day and, even more frighteningly, time to go home. If reporters could find out where I lived and how to contact me, who was to say the deranged individuals harassing me online couldn’t locate me too?

Once safely in my apartment, I double-locked the doors and stacked my shabby-chic IKEA dresser and some chairs as a second barrier. Just in case, I got out my Louisvillle slugger.

Over the next 24 hours, the accurate spelling of the real dick pic recipient’s name—Meagan Broussard, note the first a—was released, as well as her lingerie selfie. She did a TV interview with ABC News. Soon after a second interview (this one with Sean Hannity of Fox News), national coverage started to die down. Local news in this conservative city, however, was still in a tizzy.

About a week later, I caught such a broadcast in the waiting room at my gynecologist’s office. Then the nurse walked out with her clipboard and sucked the air out of the room when she read out the name featured on the news.

Later that year, I moved to New York, and in 2012, I went freelance. That’s when my bad online reputation became a problem. Forget those drunken college pics your mom warned you about. When hiring managers Googled me, the algorithm served up a half-naked woman and Weiner’s wiener.

Sometimes I’d hear back and get the chance to explain the unfortunate coincidence. Other times it was crickets and I’d wonder if I should have brought it up or if that would have been weird. I eventually became so paranoid that I put the disclaimer “not Anthony Weiner’s cyber mistress” in my social-media bios.

megan broussard
The author in NYC.
Courtesy of Megan Broussard

Though we didn’t look much alike and the spelling had been clarified, most people didn’t notice. Not even Meagan Broussard, who messaged me on Facebook three years later with the question, “Why are you using my name on LinkedIn?”

The worst part was that I actually felt dirty and guilty—like I was branded with a virtual scarlet letter. I felt as shamed as if I had been the one to participate in illicit shenanigans with a politician. It affected my personal life; I’d go on dates or meet new friends, not knowing if they’d go home, Google, and gasp. I blamed her for tarnishing my good name.

As the years went by, Weiner would fade in and out of the news cycle: a mayoral campaign, the infamous “Carlos Danger” incident, and a self-titled documentary. Each time, our names (Meagan’s and mine) would flood search engines again, but now with a few additional monikers on the list. I felt bad for other women with unfortunate names like mine, paying for someone else’s indiscretions.

In November 2017, Weiner went to jail and this story became a funny one to tell at parties. Until recently, that is, when I watched the documentary series Framing Britney Spears, and I realized it actually wasn’t all that funny.

The credits rolled, and my mind reeled. I thought of a passage I’d read for my book club from Glennon Doyle’s Untamed: “Girls who are bold...irk us. Their brazen defiance and refusal to follow directions makes us want to put them back in their cage.” That’s how I felt about “rebellious” head-shaven, umbrella-wielding Britney in 2007. That’s how I felt about “emboldened” Meagan in 2011. She didn’t hide from the negative spotlight; Meagan was unapologetic about her social-media liaisons. It irked me. My feelings, as Doyle wrote, were a direct result of my socialization. We are “conditioned to mistrust and dislike strong, confident...girls and women.”

My own gender bias had made me treat Meagan unfairly. I had always been way more upset with Meagan than the Weiner who got us into this mess. How could I call myself a feminist if I held a woman, a member of the general public, to a higher standard than a male elected official?

I resolved to check myself in future. But sometimes the universe (a.k.a. your iPhone) listens to your thoughts and responds. That’s how I got an ad for a podcast that was, among other topics, rethinking maligned women from the near past.

The hosts of You’re Wrong About, Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes, became my media-mindfulness gurus. They guided me through decades of oversimplified narratives and the coded language used to target women such as Monica Lewinsky, Tonya Harding, and Anna Nicole Smith, who, according to the mainstream media, were “doing womanhood wrong.”

I found strength in reflecting and course-correcting. Yes, I had a right to be scared and upset by online harassment, but Meagan most likely got it worse than I did. My anger was misplaced. Not only did I not deserve to be treated so badly online, but Meagan Broussard didn’t deserve that treatment either.

I know watching one documentary and writing an essay isn’t enough to cure me of my cultural blind spots. I am still battling my own conditioning and looking to learn more, but I do hope that by sharing my story, others will also take a hard, close look at the outdated lenses they use to view and judge women in the spotlight. Like bedazzled aviator frames, persecuting “bad girls” is passé. We can all do better.

So, add this piece to the pages that pop up when you Google that Weiner. I’m not embarrassed anymore.

And to Meagan Broussard: I’m sorry.

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