“Are you going to split up?”
Weiner replied that he and his wife intended to “weather” the storm. Peyser was not satisfied. “Where is she? Where is she? Sir, where is she?”
“She is not here,” Weiner said.
“Where is she?” pushed Peyser, who later asked, “You said you were on the phone. Did you have phone sex with these women? Did you ever have some kind of an affair with some of these women?”
Weiner clarified that he was never in the same room with any of the women.
“Did you have phone sex? Did you have phone sex?” asked Peyser, adding, “These were young girls, very young, a 21-year-old, does that bother you? They are young enough to be your children.”
It was no accident that Peyser stood front and center at the Weiner news conference or that she became its virtual co-star. When it comes to humiliating humiliated powerful men and the women who stand by them, Peyser is unparalleled. As former New York governor Eliot Spitzer walked toward the door with his wife, Silda, after basically admitting to paying prostitutes, the last thing he heard was Peyser calling after the couple, “Silda! Are you leaving him?”
Peyser has long been an object of fascination among some media observers in New York, who count her unforgiving, exuberantly spiteful columns as a guilty pleasure. New York Magazine described her as “the local Madame Defarge, shaking her fist as the tumbrels roll by.” The New York Observer called her a “roving Valkyrie reporter-commentator” and Web site the Awl on Tuesday dubbed her the New York Post “harridan.”
There are less flattering names, too.
“I don’t like that word, ‘scold,’ ” said Peyser, who made no excuses for attacking Weiner. “I only go after people who ask for it. He was asking for it. DSK [Dominique Strauss-Kahn] asked for it. Tiger Woods. Go down the list.”
Peyser, who grew up in Queens and now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter, became a columnist during an alleged sex scandal involving New York Mets players in the early 1990s. She said she learned that “during spring training, the boys were very bad.”
The experience also taught her a more consequential lesson. “I discovered I’m not afraid of scandal,” she said, adding that these sorts of stories rivet her to this day. “Human behavior never ceases to amaze me. Human stupidity never ceases to amaze me.”
And wives who support their disgraced husbands never cease to amaze her.