If the purpose of the race for Weiner was a return to political viability, with the potential perk of becoming mayor, he suddenly found himself back where he started. But he is unlikely to drop out, as doing so now would mean certain political oblivion. Instead, he woke up to a new reality.
On Wednesday morning, the flat-screen television hanging above reporters in Room 9 of City Hall showed footage of the Weiner-Abedin news conference alongside feel-good advertisements from Quinn. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I), who is leaving office after three terms, walked down the City Hall steps with a sheaf of the day’s newspapers rife with Weiner news tucked under his arm. Reporters gathered outside City Hall gates for Quinn’s news conference, which was privately advertised as the moment she would break her silence about Weiner.
After an extended throat clearing about proposals related to the city’s subway system, she gave the reporters what they had been promised.
“The circus that former Congress member Weiner has brought to the mayor’s race in the last two months has been a disservice to New Yorkers. A disservice to New Yorkers who are looking for someone who has the judgment and maturity to lead this city and who has the record of actually delivering for them,” she said, adding, “We see a pattern of reckless behavior, consistently poor judgment and difficulty with the truth. New Yorkers deserve something completely different.”
For good measure, she added: “There is a clear pattern here of difficulty with the truth. Difficulty with the truth is not a good characteristic in a mayor. New Yorkers need to know that their mayor is going to be honest and upfront with them.”
She left the news conference and entered the gates of City Hall, where she gave a hug and whispered to Bill de Blasio, the public advocate of New York and himself a mayoral candidate who had hoped to occupy the progressive-outer-borough-white-guy space before Weiner entered stage left to better reviews.
“The front pages are always about Anthony Weiner,” De Blasio said, calling the former congressman “a never-ending sideshow that is distracting us from the debate on the serious issues of this election. It is time for him to leave this race. It is time for him to step aside.”
Without hearing the other candidates’ attacks, New Yorkers in Weiner’s base got the message.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Sheila Rogoff, 77, who was sipping coffee at a bagel place on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn with a friend. “When I heard the news, I said, ‘He better get a refund from his psychiatrist.’ ” Rogoff said she had planned to support Weiner, whom she had considered “a nice Jewish boy,” but now “I really don’t know.” She was bothered, she said, by his inability “to control whatever his urges are” and that she was hardly aware of anyone else in the race. “To me it represents a loss.”
Her friend Maxine Friedman, 62, nodded along and expressed doubts about Weiner’s habit of “self-aggrandizement” and “this sort of excessive pride,” which she considered part of his “illness.” “When you are in a political position, one of the main things is judgment. When you are mayor, your calls affect millions of people. That’s a concern.”
Down the block, George Alway pored over the Daily News coverage of the Weiner story. “I feel like he should go into another line of work,” he said. “He’d be too busy doing that kind of stuff instead of being mayor.” That said, Alway added that none of the other candidates seems up to snuff. “If Weiner drops out, we’re still in a pickle.” But he shows no signs of leaving.
On Wednesday evening, dressed in a white shirt and yellow tie, Weiner arrived at a college near City Hall for a hearing about public housing. His press secretary had surprise cupcakes for members of the media. But they had a surprise for Weiner, too. Standing next to a New York Post photographer was a man dressed in a Zorro costume. The photographer deflected queries, saying the man was not doing interviews. But when Weiner emerged, Zorro approached. He said his name was Carlos Danger.
He rushed the candidate, shouting, “Why did you steal my name?”
Weiner looked terrified.