National News

July 23, 2013

Anthony Weiner caught in another sexting scandal

NEW YORK — Anthony Weiner found himself caught in another sexting scandal Tuesday like the one that destroyed his congressional career, but stood side-to-side with his wife to say that he won’t drop out of the race for mayor of New York.

“This is entirely behind me,” Weiner said at an evening news conference, hours after the gossip website The Dirty posted X-rated text messages and a crotch photo that it said the former congressman exchanged with a woman.

Weiner confirmed sending sexually explicit photos and messages to a woman online and acknowledged some of the activity took place as recently last summer, more than a year after he resigned from the House in disgrace for the same sort of behavior with at least a half-dozen women.

“I want to bring my vision to the people of the city of New York,” Weiner said, his wife smiling faintly and shyly by his side. “I hope they are willing to still continue to give me a second chance.”

Weiner then turned the microphone over to his wife, Huma Abedin, who did not appear with him at the June 2011 news conference when he stepped down from Congress. This time, she reaffirmed her support for her husband and said the matter is “between us.”

“I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward,” said Abedin, a longtime adviser to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Abedin said her husband had made some “horrible mistakes both before he resigned from Congress and after” but insisted she and her husband discussed “all of this” before he jumped into the mayor’s race in May.

The latest disclosures could severely test voters’ willingness to forgive Weiner, who has said he spent the two years since the scandal trying to make things right with his wife and earn redemption. Three of his rivals for mayor immediately called on him to drop out of the race.

The 48-year-old Democrat has been near the top of most mayoral polls since his late entry into the race.

“I said that other texts and photos were likely to come out and today they have,” said Weiner, who added that he was surprised that more had not previously surfaced. “It’s in our rear-view mirror, but it’s not far.”

After the news conference, Weiner attended a mayoral forum on gay men’s issues and was warmly received.

The woman with whom he exchanged the messages was not identified by The Dirty. She told the website that she was 22 when she began chatting with Weiner on the social networking site Formspring. She said their online relationship began in July 2012 and lasted for six months.

She claimed Weiner used the alias “Carlos Danger” for their exchanges, but she knew she was talking to the former congressman.

The exchanges posted on The Dirty consist of sexually explicit fantasizing about various sex acts. At one point, the man reported to be Weiner wrote, “I’m deeply flawed.”

The woman said Weiner promised to help her get a job at the political website Politico and suggested meeting in a Chicago condo for a tryst.

The woman claimed that she and Weiner also exchanged nude photos of themselves and engaged in frequent phone sex. The Dirty ran a pixelated photo of what appears to be a man’s genitals.

“This was a bad situation for me because I really admired him. Even post scandal, I thought he was misunderstood. Until I got to know him. I thought I loved him. Pretty pathetic,” the woman was quoted as telling the website.

She said he later asked her to destroy the evidence of their chats. She insisted that she never had sex with Weiner or received any payment from him.

The woman claimed her relationship with Weiner “fizzled” in November 2012. She said she last heard from him this past April, when his intention to run for mayor was first revealed in a New York Times Magazine profile.

Weiner claimed that not every allegation made by the woman was true but said that he was not going to dispute specific claims. The lawyer for The Dirty’s founder, Nik Ritchie, said his client was ill and would not comment Tuesday.

Weiner said his last illicit sexting exchange happened “sometime last summer, I think” and admitted it took place after he and his wife sat down for a glowing People magazine profile in which they said their troubles were behind them.

Abedin, who was pregnant when the sexting scandal broke in 2011 and gave birth months later, has played a large and increasing role in his mayoral campaign. She made an appearance in his campaign kick-off video, has led his fundraising effort and recently made her debut on the campaign trail. Two weekends ago, she walked hand-in-hand with Weiner as they talked to voters on a Harlem street.

Three of his mayoral rivals — Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former City Councilman Sal Albanese, both Democrats, and billionaire John Catsimatidis, a Republican — quickly called on Weiner to abandon his quest for office, as did a lesser candidate in the race.

“Enough is enough,” said de Blasio. “The sideshows of this election have gotten in the way of the debate we should be having about the future of this city.”

Another mayoral hopeful, city Comptroller John Liu, stopped short of calling for Weiner to bow out, but suggested his “propensity for pornographic selfies is a valid issue for voters.”

The other leading Democratic candidates, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, did not immediately comment.

The disclosure suddenly puts Weiner’s indiscretions, judgment and candor back in the forefront of his campaign and could test voters’ confidence in him, political analysts said.

Some voters have said they felt Weiner had atoned for his past and were willing to give him a second chance. But a third, after hearing allegations that his misbehavior continued after his resignation?

“It makes it tougher to believe this is behind him,” said Democratic former state Assemblyman Michael Benjamin, now a political consultant.

But given the corps of voters who have shown willingness to forgive Weiner’s prior behavior, the latest revelation may not be a campaign knockout, said Jerry Skurnik, a longtime Democratic consultant who is not working with any mayoral candidates this year.

Some New Yorkers were disappointed by the news that Weiner had apparently continued his online activities even after leaving office.

“I think he had a chance to redeem himself and if he did it twice, he really betrayed the public’s trust again,” said Jeremy Green, 22. “I think he’s past the point of no return for New Yorkers.”

The revelations come just two weeks after another scandal-scarred candidate, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, announced his own attempt at political redemption. Spitzer, who resigned in 2008 after admitting to paying for sex with prostitutes, is running for city comptroller.

Weiner’s problems began in May 2011, when a website run by conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart posted a photograph of a man’s bulging underwear and said it had been sent from Weiner’s Twitter account to a Seattle woman. Weiner denied he sent the photo, claiming his Twitter had been hacked.

But after more women came forward and more photographic evidence emerged, Weiner admitted he lied.

He then entered two years of self-imposed political exile, only to return this spring.

Under a huge media spotlight, he apologized repeatedly for his behavior in the initial days of his bid but then pivoted quickly into an issues-based campaign. He was largely well-received by voters and quickly established himself as a favorite in the race.

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