A gossip Web site revealed this week that New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s habit of exchanging sexually obscene communications with young women online continued after his resignation from Congress in 2011, and that he used the colorful pseudonym “Carlos Danger.” These revelations have changed the tenor of the race:
Now his rivals, who had been reluctant to so much as utter Weiner’s name, wanted to talk of little else. They called on him to leave the campaign and questioned his judgment and integrity.
At a debate in the Bronx, one Latino mayoral candidate said Weiner’s use of the amorous pen name Carlos Danger reflected poorly on Hispanics. Another rival called him a distraction from middle-class issues, prompting Weiner to respond that his accuser was “playing to the cameras.” Everyone, including Weiner, cracked up when he was asked if he prefers Facebook or Twitter. The cameras clicked.
Weiner, who over his career has delighted in media coverage, was getting run over by it. The media scrum around him dwarfed those that orbit presidential candidates.
New Yorkers on the train and in pizza places folded over tabloid headlines such as “Meet Carlos Danger.” An excoriating editorial in the New York Times demanded that Weiner “take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye, away from cameras, off the Web and out of the race for mayor of New York City.”
Political operatives compared the embattled couple to B-League Clintons. Weiner tried to find a message to stay on, and Abedin’s defenders insisted that she spoke to set the record straight, not just to stand by her man. Even Eliot L. Spitzer, the disgraced former New York governor who followed Weiner’s path back into politics as a candidate for comptroller, had to answer questions about whether he had continued to frequent prostitutes. (“Absolutely not,” he said at a campaign stop. “And we’re done answering those questions.”)
On Wednesday evening, Weiner also continued to face unsavory queries. The gregarious candidate, who entered the race and quickly crowded his challengers out of the debate, looked blankly at a reporter who was shouting, “Do you use any other aliases other than Carlos Danger?”
See other disgraced politicians who have tried to return to public life in the gallery below.
View Photo Gallery: Spitzer, Weiner, Sanford, Petraeus, Clinton: Sudden, ignominious scandals have toppled plenty of public figures, but many have found a way to bounce back, often with high salaries. Here are a few politicians during their days of disgrace — and afterward.
Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, has deflected some of the attacks by publicly defending her husband:
Although those who know Abedin say they were surprised by how she seized the moment at his news conference Tuesday, rejecting humiliation for defiance, they note that she has been a major force in Weiner’s unlikely bid for redemption.
One friend said Abedin has known since last fall that her husband had not given up his habit of lewd behavior with women on the Web. Nevertheless, Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton, has continued to aggressively work Clinton’s circle — to the annoyance of some — seeking support and financial contributions for Weiner’s mayoral bid.
“People like Huma, but they saw her trading on the Hillary card and resented it. But that didn’t mean they didn’t show up” for Weiner, said a Clinton intimate, one of several who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The chatter was, if you wanted to stay in Hillary’s good graces, you answer the call from Huma.”
Even those who believed Weiner had no shot at winning were eager to stay on the good side of a woman they expect would be a major figure in a Clinton 2016 presidential campaign, should the former secretary of state decide to run.
But Abedin acknowledged a miscalculation, said the friend, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.
When the exchanges became public Tuesday, the friend said, Abedin realized she had erred in thinking she could maintain some privacy by remaining vague about her marriage, most notably in a much-discussed New York Times Magazine profile that presented a gauzy view of a couple in recovery.
To correct that error, she decided she must stand by her husband’s side at the news conference — an appearance that evoked memories of the times that Clinton, her mentor, had been in similar situations as first lady of Arkansas and the United States.
A wronged spouse in her own right, Abedin gazed at her husband dolefully. She looked away. She stared at the floor. She attempted to smile.
When it came her turn to speak, she acknowledged she was nervous, then declared her love, her forgiveness, her support going forward.
“I do very strongly believe that that is between us and our marriage,” Abedin said.