06.07.11

Huma Abedin: Weiner's Spectacular Wife

Anthony Weiner was a playboy congressman when he wooed Hillary Clinton’s most-trusted aide, 12 years his junior, to marry him. Lois Romano reports on the glamorous and private woman.

As political pundits and members of Congress continue to hyperventilate over whether Anthony Weiner will hold on to his job, not a few Washington insiders are curious about whether he will hold on to his wife—Huma Abedin, the enigmatic aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Abedin was nowhere near Monday's painful press conference when the brash Queens congressman twice tearfully apologized to her for sending lewd photographs of himself to women he met online. Now sources tell The New York Times that Abedin, 35, is pregnant with the couple's first child. She is currently on an official trip to Africa with Clinton.

Weiner and Abedin were married 11 months ago in a ceremony officiated by Bill Clinton, and she has reportedly told friends that she is committed to the marriage.

On Monday, Weiner, 46, said he and Abedin "have no intention of splitting up over this" and maintained that he had not met the women with whom he corresponded. He did, however, admit that some of the inappropriate communications with other women happened after he and Huma were married. He said that his wife knew about his pre-marriage online activities with women—but she was not aware that he had been lying for the past week about an explicit photo he posted to his Twitter account; he said publicly that his account had been hacked.

“We will weather this," he said. "I love her very much and she loves me."

Those who know the intensely private Abedin say that she has continued to work and put forward a strong demeanor in the face of 10 humiliating days of headlines about her husband’s poor judgment.

Abedin has long been considered one of world’s most intriguing women. Stunning, smart, fluent in Arabic, and notoriously discreet, she has for the past 15 years held a firm place in the Clintons' powerful orbit, mostly as Hillary Clinton’s “body person.”

There was never a shortage of powerful men drooling over her, and she was considered quite the catch when Weiner started pursuing her a few years ago.

On the surface, Weiner and Abedin would seem like an odd match. She is a practicing Muslim and he is Jewish. He actively courts the media while she has been a reluctant media star. The congressman was known to have had a pretty active bachelorhood, but he courted Abedin tenaciously despite her early ambivalence toward him. There was never a shortage of powerful men drooling over her, and she was considered quite the catch when Weiner started pursuing her a few years ago.

Abedin has been featured in Vogue—a spotlight not generally afforded a political staffer—and has been the subject of numerous profiles. She was listed in Time’s “40 under 40” young stars in politics.

“Abedin has the energy of a woman in her 20s, the confidence of a woman in her 30s, the experience of a woman in her 40s, and the grace of a woman in her 50s,” Clinton told Vogue in 2007. “She is timeless, her combination of poise, kindness, and intelligence are matchless.”

Abedin was born in Kalamazoo, Mich., but relocated to Jidda, Saudi Arabia, with her parents when she was 2 years old. Her father was an Indian-born Islamic scholar who died in 1993, and her mother, a Pakistani, is a well-known academic.

Her first job for Hillary Clinton was as a White House intern in 1996 when Clinton was first lady. She has always worked close to Clinton and in 2000, when Clinton was running for the Senate, Abedin became her ubiquitous traveling aide, the person with Clinton every waking minute who makes the trains run on time and who must anticipate her boss’s needs. She carries two BlackBerrys and is, in effect, the gatekeeper, thereby making her a rather powerful arbitrator of who reaches Clinton.

While Abedin doesn’t have an official diplomatic or policy role, her opinion on Mideast issues has always been sought and valued by both Clintons.