Warning to Anthony Weiner and his mayoral ambitions: there is Carlos Danger ahead.
A few hours after the gossip website The Dirty posted a report that Weiner had used the Danger nom de Internet to communicate with women even after he resigned from Congress in a sexting scandal, the front-runner in the race to replace New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defiantly forged on.
Accompanied by his wife, Huma Abedin, Weiner told an overflow room of nearly 100 reporters and cameramen that such behavior was behind him and that his unlikely campaign for mayor would continue apace.
“I have said that other texts and photos were likely to come out and today they have,” he said as Abedin, making a rare appearance in Weiner’s political career, grimly looked on. “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 many challenges in our marriage that extended past my resignation from Congress.”
Weiner cast his wife’s presence as an act of forgiveness on her part that the rest of the electorate could be expected to emulate.
“I am pleased and blessed that she has given me a second chance,” he said. “For the past several months I have been asking New Yorkers to also give me another chance.”
Abedin then delivered her first comments to the broader press since Weiner announced at the beginning of the summer that he was jumping back into politics. She appeared tremblingly nervous and described their three-year old marriage as one with ups and downs.
“It took a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony,” she said. “It was not an easy choice in any way, but I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage. Anthony has made some horrible mistakes both before he resigned from Congress and after. But I do very strongly believe that is between us and our marriage.”
Several times Weiner cast Tuesday’s story—which ended up getting picked up and amplified by the website BuzzFeed—as old news, prefacing his remarks with the phrase “As I have said before.” He said parts of the report were inaccurate but declined to specify which parts, and he hinted that the story was coming out now as mayoral polls continued to show him with a slight lead over his rivals and the primary election six weeks away.
The latest revelations should by any account torpedo Weiner’s political career. It is one thing to fall. It is another to fall and to keep falling, again and again, even after you were supposed to have hit bottom. It is one thing to have had indiscretion in your past. It is another when those indiscretions were only last year. It is one thing to betray your wife and the public’s trust. It is another to have done so after sitting together for a gauzy People magazine story and listen as your wife says, "Anthony has spent every day since [the scandal] trying to be the best dad and husband he can be.” It became reasonable Tuesday to ask whether Weiner was even capable of stopping himself. Would he be prowling chat rooms from the basement of Gracie Mansion, snapping au naturel pics of himself from the back seat of the mayoral motorcade?
Weiner’s rivals for the Democratic nomination had mostly treated his scandal with kid gloves, but Tuesday, the gloves came off. Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, called on him to drop out. John Liu, the city comptroller, told reporters that Weiner’s propensity for “pornographic selfies” was something voters should consider.
But on the other hand, how could Weiner have survived thus far? New York voters have seen more of Weiner than they could ever hope to, and still he is sitting atop the polls. If a weak field and if a public tired of the same old politicians vaulted him to the top with six weeks to go, why should the latest revelations change anything? It is just sexting on top of sexting on top of sexting, and Weiner has somehow, implausibly, managed to keep any of it from keeping him down for long.
On Tuesday, after Weiner read his statement and Abedin read hers, the candidate took a few questions. He was asked when his wife learned that there were more women, and he said she knew before he decided to run. He was asked how he knew he wouldn’t continue this behavior, and he said he knew he wouldn’t. He was asked what he would say to those who want him to drop out of the race.
“I am sure,” he responded coolly, “that many of my opponents do want me to drop out of the race.”