UPDATE: Anthony Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, are separating. An updated post follows.
The documentary was so strikingly honest that we at The Fix wondered whether Weiner was trying to to have a third go at public life by airing all his dirty laundry. After it aired, Weiner, a Democrat, became a reliable anti-Trump voice in New York City media. He even tried to bait Donald Trump Jr. into running for mayor of New York City against him.
If elected office was Weiner's goal, though, he just blew it by breaking the one rule of redemption: fully come clean.
Just two weeks ago, when he was asked if his sexting days were behind him, he seemed to deflect. And now we know why: On Sunday night, the New York Post reported that Weiner had recently been sexting with a woman who is not his wife. Making the story even more cringe-worthy, the New York Post reports that Weiner sent a suggestive photo of himself while his toddler son was in the bed next to him.
Weiner didn't deny any of this. He told the New York Post that he and the woman “have been friends for some time.”
“She has asked me not to comment except to say that our conversations were private, often included pictures of her nieces and nephews and my son and were always appropriate,” he said. By Monday morning, Weiner had deleted his Twitter account. By Monday afternoon, his wife, Huma Abedin, announced the two were separating.
Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner are separating pic.twitter.com/4WVZxfTMmo— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) August 29, 2016
The day after these revelations, Weiner isn't just facing questions about his political career. He's facing questions about his parenting skills. And for the third time, his questionable decisions are ensnaring his wife, one of Hillary Clinton's top aides, by raising questions about her decision to leave their son in a potentially dangerous situation.
The irony here is that Weiner had finally appeared to be cleaning up his soiled public reputation.
A world existed where the arc of Weiner's career looked like this: sext while a member of Congress, resign, apologize, run for mayor, weather revelations that he didn't stop sexting when he got caught the first time, lose the primary for mayor, star in an unflinching documentary about that painfully embarrassing moment AND possibly have an opening for a third chance at public office.
"We’re all flawed," said Kristen Hawn, the Democratic half of the bipartisan Washington communications firm Granite Integrated Strategies, when we talked in May as the documentary was released. "And I’m not saying everybody will forgive him, but I do think there’s something in all of us that appreciates a politician who is willing to take responsibility for his or her actions, being forthcoming with the voters and asking for forgiveness."
The catch, Hawn theorized, was that Weiner had to finally decide to be honest and contrite about his sexual struggles. (Or at least, give the perception that he felt bad and then be smart enough not to get caught doing it again.)
Earlier this year, Weiner seemed to be walking that path. A few months before the documentary came out, he spoke in a remarkably candid interview with the Huffington Post's Candidate Confessional podcast about what went wrong in the mayoral race.
"Love him or hate him," I wrote then, "his 45-minute reflection on himself and the scandal reminds us there's still a breathing, thinking, calculating human being behind the headlines of a politician gone awry."
But looking back, Weiner seemed to be trying to have it both ways by dropping hints about his sexual escapades without outright acknowledging them. Weiner hadn't ever actually said he's stopped sexting. As my Fix colleague Aaron Blake pointed out, as recently as two weeks ago he told the New York Times' Mark Leibovich: "I’m not going to go down the path of talking about any of that."
Weiner continued: "But I will say this: There’s no doubt that the Trump phenomenon has led a lot of people to say to me, 'Boy, compared to inviting the Russians to come hack someone’s email, your thing seems almost quaint.' "
What Weiner probably should have been saying this whole time is that he'd worked hard and finally kicked the habit. (And, it goes without saying, not been sexting behind the scenes.) Anything less means Weiner may have just used up his ninth political life.