NEW YORK (AP) — When a heckled, harried Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress and apologized for the explicit text messages that had destroyed his career, a key figure was notably absent: his then-pregnant wife, Huma Abedin.
On Tuesday, there was Weiner again, making a public mea culpa for a newfound sexting scandal that erupted amid the mayoral run he hopes will rewrite his political future. But the Democrat was there to stay in, not bow out — and Abedin was by his side.
“I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him,” and the sexting matter is “between us,” she said, a message that could prove important to shaping voters’ views as they digest his latest admission.
After the gossip website The Dirty posted X-rated text messages and a crotch shot that it said the former congressman exchanged with an unidentified woman, Weiner acknowledged sending such messages as recently as last summer, more than a year after he resigned from the House because of similar behavior with at least a half-dozen women. With Abedin smiling at his side, he said at a news conference that “this is entirely behind me,” and both made it clear they were moving ahead with his campaign.
“I want to bring my vision to the people of the city of New York. I hope they are willing to still continue to give me a second chance,” a collected Weiner said. Then he went on to talk policy at a candidate forum on gay men’s issues, where he was warmly received.
Weiner, 48, has been near the top of most polls since his late entry into the race in May. The latest disclosures could severely test voters’ willingness to forgive him. The New York Times, the Daily News and some of his mayoral rivals called on him to drop out of the race.
But Abedin’s visible support may help him win voters’ approval, too.
“I don’t think it’s a good sign” that Weiner’s behavior continued even after his resignation, said Andrew Taub, 22, who works in the venture capital arena. “But I do believe for some people looking for a sign, for something to bolster his campaign, (the fact that Abedin is staying with him) says a lot.”
Still, the disclosure suddenly puts Weiner’s indiscretions, judgment and candor back in the forefront of his campaign, and political analysts say it could be damaging: “It makes it tougher to believe this is behind him,” said Democratic former state Assemblyman Michael Benjamin, now a political consultant.
And some voters who were open-minded about a second chance may not be able to stomach a third.
“He had a chance to redeem himself, and if he did it twice, he really betrayed the public’s trust again,” Jeremy Green said. “I think he’s past the point of no return.”
Weiner and Abedin, however, sought to cast the newly revealed messages as nothing really new. “I said that other texts and photos were likely to come out, and today they have,” Weiner said. In a sign of how much he was projecting taking the messages in stride, he added that he was surprised that more hadn’t come out sooner.
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. Seeming a bit choked with emotion, she noted that she had chosen to stay in the marriage, but “it was not an easy choice.”
Abedin, a longtime adviser to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has played a large and visible role in Weiner’s mayoral campaign.