The race for New York mayor was given an unexpected jolt of a sexual-cyber nature last night after former Congressman Anthony Weiner acknowledged that new media reports detailing lewd online conversations between him and a young woman who is not his wife are at least partially true.
In recent weeks, Mr Weiner has led some polls among candidates competing to replace Michael Bloomberg whose third term in office is drawing to a close. That he seemed genuinely to pose a threat to the longtime favourite, sitting City Council chairwoman Christine Quinn, was being seen as political rising from the ashes. Mr Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 after a first batch of suggestive online communications with several women was unearthed.
Supporters of Mr Weiner, who had long been a rising star in the Democratic Party and whose wife was a close aide to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State, had clearly been hoping that the scandal was behind him and his political rehabilitation was in its final stages. The surfacing of a fresh batch of explicit correspondence puts all that in doubt, however. Their existence was first reported by a website specializing in gossip called thedirty.com.
Last night, Mr Weiner rejected calls from rival campaigns to withdraw from the race. But he did not attempt to deny the reports. “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 challenges in our marriage that extended past my resignation from Congress,” he said. “While some things that have been posted today are true and some are not, there is no question what I did was wrong.”
Political observers said a key factor is determining whether his contacts with this new woman occurred after his resignation from Congress which would indicate that he had not learned his lesson or has some sort of compulsion. The new woman, who has not been identified, has reportedly claimed that the cyber-relationship indeed began only one year ago and lasted six months. That, if true, would seem to spell trouble.
“This behavior is behind me,” Mr. Weiner said in his news release last night. “I want to again say that I am very sorry to anyone who was on the receiving end of these messages and the disruption that this has caused. As my wife and I have said, we are focused on moving forward.”
At a hastily and packed news conference, Mr Weiner again insisted that he had put all such behavior behind him after deciding to run for mayor. His wife, Huma Abedin, stood by him, conceding her husband had “made some horrible mistakes,” but that she has forgiven him and believes in him.
But the pressure for him to withdraw may build. Republican candidate John Catsimatidis blasted the former Congressman saying: “The Mayor of New York City should be a leader that all the residents of our city, especially our children, can look up to. Anthony Weiner should do what is right for his family and our city and drop out of the race for mayor so we can end this soap opera.”
Mr Weiner is not the only political figure seeking redemption from public sin. Two weeks ago former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer unexpected jumped into the race for city comptroller, who effectively controls the purse strings, hoping to draw a line under his unhappy experience resigning from office repeated visits to a high-priced prostitute in Washington DC leaded to the newspapers.