New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner acknowledged Tuesday that he continued exchanging lewd messages and images of himself to women online well after similar behavior had forced him to resign from Congress in 2011. At a news conference, Weiner pledged to remain in the race for mayor:
According to a gossip Web site called the Dirty, the Democratic ex-congressman, using the pseudonym “Carlos Danger,” exchanged obscene messages and nude pictures and engaged in phone sex with an unidentified woman, then 22. . . .
The latest revelations suggest that Weiner was engaging in reckless, lewd behavior at the very time he was launching a public rehabilitation campaign, with a warmly lighted photo spread of the couple and their infant son in People magazine. It was accompanied by a story that quoted Abedin as saying her husband was “trying to be the best dad and husband he can be.”
Weiner’s campaign released an ambiguous statement, which he later read at the news conference, that did not dispute the woman’s version of events.
“I said that other texts and photos were likely to come out, and today they have,” Weiner said. “As I have said in the past, these things that I did were wrong and hurtful to my wife and caused us to go through challenges in our marriage that extended past my resignation from Congress.”
“While some things that have been posted today are true and some are not,” he continued, “there is no question that what I did was wrong. This behavior is behind me.”
Abedin, managing a tight smile, also spoke at the news conference, saying, “I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and, as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward.”
By appearing in front of the media Abedin, long an aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, placed herself in an unusually public position:
Her decision to speak before the cameras about her husband represented Weiner’s best (and really only) chance at somehow surviving this latest set of revelations. Abedin prevented the hastily-called press conference from devolving into a media feeding frenzy, in which a politician seeking to make a comeback would be pelted with harsh questions from the press. . . .
But it may not be enough to help him win the primary against New York City Council chair Christine Quinn, and it raises a critical question: in a situation like this, does it matter what a disgraced politician’s spouse thinks?
During her brief remarks Abedin repeatedly framed Weiner’s behavior as a personal matter, saying the situation was ”between us and our marriage,” and that ”It was not an easy choice in any way, but I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage. That was a decision I made for me, for our son, and for our family.”
It was a stark reminder of how hard it is to understand another couple’s marriage — whether a political family or not — as an outside observer. Unlike both Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Sen. Gary Hart’s (D-Colo.) wife Lee, who initially defended their husbands as innocent when charges of infidelity surfaced, Abedin did not pretend her husband was unblemished.
“Our marriage, like many others has had its ups and its downs,” Abedin said. “It took a lot of work and whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony.”
But the message she delivered Tuesday was largely the same as political spouses before her: if she could forgive him for his misdeeds, the voters could too. Abedin did not make the case for why Weiner was best positioned to lead New York, and even if she made that case, it’s unclear whether voters would buy it.
Keli Goff questions Abedin’s decision to help her husband as he tries to rehabilitate himself in the public eye:
I also can’t help thinking how ludicrous Huma’s “Stand by Your Man” routine Tuesday would be perceived if her husband’s vice was not a sexual one. If an elected official resigned office in disgrace after a drunk-driving accident, and then while seeking office again shortly thereafter was revealed to have had another secret accident, his spouse and anyone else encouraging his political comeback so soon would be labeled an enabler, and rightly so.
There would be questions asked about why those around such a politician were so heavily invested in seeing him regain his political power so quickly. People would ask if the true motivation was that there was absolutely no other candidate as qualified, thus making his comeback a necessity for his supporters, or whether the real motivation is that there was no one else running who could provide the political power and access that his inner circle considered a necessity, his spouse included.
While there are plenty of women judging Huma’s decision to stand by her husband, I am not one of them. I am, however, judging her decision to stand by Anthony Weiner the candidate. If the other mayoral candidates were convicted felons, or illiterate or horrifyingly unqualified in some other way, perhaps I would get it. But the other candidates are not like that, far from it. Instead, right now it looks like Huma is putting her family’s political ambition ahead of the city’s needs, and perhaps her own.
She may even be putting their shared ambition ahead of their marriage. (I’m no couples therapist, but are campaigns and life in the public eye known to make marriages less stressful?)
The last thing New York needs is more distraction and about the only thing Anthony Weiner can guarantee at this point is that his candidacy is one big distraction. We have serious issues in New York, from a housing crisis to income inequality to fixing our broken public school system.
Weiner’s campaign has drawn comparisons with that of Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor, who won a Congressional race earlier this year despite the fact that while in office, he told the public he was taking a hiking trip and instead traveled to Argentina to visit his mistress. Sanford and other disgraced politicians have altered the calculus for analysts and observers:
Weiner, after all, is operating in a political equation that allowed voters in South Carolina to forgive former governor Mark Sanford for his lusty non-hiking excursions and reward him with a seat in Congress. If anything, Weiner has emerged as a pioneer in post-paramour politics. This month, Eliot Spitzer, the former New York governor who resigned in disgrace after a prostitution scandal, announced that he, too, would again seek office, that of New York City comptroller. That’s the very position Weiner considered before deciding that losing a relatively low-stakes race could prove fatal to his future political ambitions. A respectable loss in a race for mayor, on the other hand, could help restore him to political viability.
And soon after entering the race, he didn’t seem to be losing at all. On the campaign trail in June, Weiner paused during an interview in front of a train station in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, remarked that the station had been dedicated by Teddy Roosevelt, accepted a shout of “Good luck” and rejected the notion that he was running for mayor because it was a no-lose situation.
“Look,” said Weiner, wearing an American-flag tie. “I don’t think anyone goes through this, as hard as it is, and as much as you subject yourself to, if you don’t want the job. Or if you don’t think you are going to win. I just don’t believe that that happens. It’s certainly not happening in this case.”
See images of other politicians who have been involved in scandals below.