This week’s New York Times Magazine offers Anthony Weiner roughly 9,000 words—to wax poetic about the fallout over the tweeted photograph of his boner—and the chance to informally throw his hat back in the ring for a possible New York City mayoral run. N.Y.C.’s potential first “Crotch Shot Mayor” and his wife, Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, discuss Weiner’s Twitter scandal, his political downfall, his bizarre behavior, her decision not to leave him, and his possible political comeback.
“We have been in a defensive crouch for so long,” Weiner says, explaining why they’re addressing the scandal now. “We are ready to clear the decks on this thing.” Abedin agrees. “I have now gotten used to people asking, over and over, again, ‘How is Anthony?’ Oh, he’s good! ‘But how is he doing?’ He’s doing fine.” How fine? Here, the 10 juiciest bits from “Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin’s Post-Scandal Playbook.”
He’s running, basically. Mercifully, the lede is not buried here. “Weiner quickly put all the speculation to rest: he is eyeing the mayor’s race,” writer Jonathan Van Meter begins the fifth paragraph. More than $100,000 was poured into polling and research to test the waters for Weiner’s comeback. The question, according to David Binder, Obama’s longtime pollster hired by Weiner’s political committee, was, “Are voters willing to give him a second chance or not, regardless of what race or what contest?” Binder says the response, generally, was, “Yeah, he made a mistake. Let’s give him a second chance.”
Weiner lied to Abedin, and she believed him. The infamous photograph of Weiner’s torso—chiseled abs, gray boxer briefs, enthusiastic crotch area—appeared May 27, just as Abedin was returning from a trip abroad. (In a bit of heartbreaking irony, Abedin had days before emailed Weiner from Buckingham Palace gushing about the “amazingly blessed life that we live, these incredible experiences we’ve both had.”)
“I knew it was bad,” Weiner says when he realized that he accidentally tweeted the saucy photo—meant for a 21-year-old college student in Seattle—to his 45,000 followers. “Huma was come back from overseas, and I called and left her a message ... I lied to her. The lies to everyone else were primarily because I wanted to keep it from her.” Weiner aggressively—and bizarrely—denied that it was him, even calling a reporter a “jackass,” and Abedin played dutiful deputy on the crusade. “I was right there with him,” she says. “‘Let’s fight! Defend! I don’t understand. Why don’t you just say this is not your picture?’ I was with him. One hundred percent.”
Oh, also, while all this was going on, Abedin had just learned that she was pregnant with the couple’s first child.
He finally confessed…because he knew he’d get caught. It wasn’t until Chris Cuomo warned Weiner that another woman was going to come out, saying that he texted with her, that Weiner finally came clean to his wife while they were hiding out in the Hamptons. “The weekend was over, we’re about to leave, the car is packed, and Anthony said: ‘I have something to tell you. I can’t lie to you anymore. It’s true. It’s me. The picture is me. I sent it. Yes, these stories about the other women are true.’ And it was every emotion that one would imagine: rage and anger and shock. But more than anything else, in the immediate, it was disbelief. The thing that I consciously remember saying over and over and over again is: ‘I don’t understand. What is going on? What’s happening to our lives?’”
The whole scandal spawned from Weiner’s narcissism. Weiner got sucked into Twitter and Facebook for the same reason so many of us are—he got off on the attention. “Well, O.K., now, at 2 o’clock in the morning, I can come home from playing hockey and I can find someone saying, ‘Oh, that was great’ or ‘You’re an idiot.’ So somewhere in there it got to a place where I was trying to engage people in nothing about being a politician. Or sometimes it would start out about politics and then, ‘You’re a great guy.’ ‘Oh, thanks, you’re great, too.’ ‘I think you’re handsome.’ ‘Oh, that’s great.’”
Everything escalated from there, to the point where he stopped thinking of the repercussions: “‘And there just wasn’t much of me who was smart enough, sensitive enough, in touch with my own things, understanding enough about the disrespect and how dishonorable it was to be doing that. It didn’t seem to occupy a real space in my feelings. I think it would be pretty surprising to a lot of people: What was he thinking?’ He scrunched up his face and shoulders. ‘I wasn’t really thinking. What does this mean that I’m doing this? Is this risky behavior? Is this smart behavior? To me, it was just another way to feed this notion that I want to be liked and admired.’”
It took a while for Abedin to forgive Weiner. Because, well, duh. “At the time, we were very early in our marriage, but it was an old friendship. He was my best friend. In addition to that, I loved him. There was a deep love there, but it was coupled with a tremendous feeling of betrayal. It took a lot of work, both mentally and in the way we engage with each other, for me to get to a place where I said: ‘O.K., I’m in. I’m staying in this marriage.’ Here was a man I respected, I loved, was the father of this child inside of me, and he was asking me for a second chance.”
Even the thought of Abedin’s forgiveness brings Weiner to tears. Van Meter recounts one particularly emotional conversation: “‘We have to deal with this a lot. It’s not behind us. It kind of bubbles around and comes up in different ways. But she’s, um ...’ Here, he paused and took a deep breath and started to cry. ‘She’s given ...’ He stopped again, could barely get the words out. ‘She’s given me another chance. And I am very grateful for that. And I’m trying to make sure I get it right.’”
Hillary Clinton helped Abedin through everything. It’s not lost on Abedin that what she went through with Weiner eerily mirrors the nightmare her boss went through with Bill Clinton. Asked how Clinton helped her through the mess, Abedin only says, “We’ve had a lot of personal conversations, none of which I feel comfortable talking about. But what I will say about her, and for that matter her entire family, the unconditional love and support they have given me has been a real gift. And I think she would be O.K. with me saying this, because I know she has said this before: at the end of the day, at the very least, every woman should have the ability and the confidence and the choice to make whatever decisions she wants to make that are right for her and not be judged by it.”
Weiner’s friends—including Jon Stewart—were baffled by the whole thing.
Jon Stewart’s decades-long friendship with Weiner didn’t stop him from joining the piling on once the scandal broke—“I may have been impeached by some sort of comedy board if I hadn’t made all those Weiner jokes”—but it did surprise him: “It did, in that you never expect the person you know to be the guy on TV in the middle of the quagmire, but it didn’t surprise me in that we’re all human. So it’s not like, ‘My God, I can’t believe the depravity!’ First of all, in terms of these types of scandals, the depravity was on a very low scale.”
Massachusetts Rep. Mike Capuano, Weiner’s roommate for years, summed everyone’s confusion: “He obviously did something incredibly stupid that, honestly, I still don’t understand.”
Weiner’s pretty self-aware on why the scandal rocked the nation. Confusingly, Weiner says that at the time he couldn’t wrap his around why a little dick pic made national headlines for so long. Now, he gets it. “My last name; the fact that I was this combative congressman; the fact that there were pictures involved; the fact that it was a slow news period; the fact that I was an idiot about it; the fact that, while I was still lying about it, I dug myself in deeper by getting beefy with every reporter. But it was also this notion of how much attention our relationship had gotten, this kind of Camelot feel to it. It turned out to make it harder on both of us, and it made the explosion that much bigger.”
Weiner thinks he may never be forgiven by the public. For a lot of people, Weiner will always be the idiot with the boner seen by America. And he realizes that. “Some people just don’t buy it,” he says. “Like they just don’t have room for a second narrative about me. We have this notion of intimacy with politicians because they’re always looking for ways to tell you what they have figured out you want to hear. But you don’t know people, and you don’t know what’s going on in their lives. So you rarely ever get a really fulsome look at any politician.”
His brother Jason, for one, though in a hardly glowing fashion, says he sees a changed man: “I wouldn’t stand for other people saying this about him, but there was definitely a douchiness about him that I just don’t really see anymore.”
... and isn’t sure they’ll vote for him, either. He wants a second chance at politics. “I do want to have that conversation with people whom I let down and with people who put their faith in me and who wanted to support me. I think to some degree I do want to say to them, ‘Give me another chance.’”
But he’s not sure he’ll get it. “People are generally prepared to get over it, but they don’t know if they’re prepared to vote for me. And there’s a healthy number of people who will never get over it ... It’s a little complicated because I always attracted a fairly substantial amount of people who didn’t like me anyway. I am a bit of a polarizing case.”