Former Congressman Anthony Weiner gave the so-called “Weinergate” little thought–and didn’t understand how dishonorable it was–until it was too late.
“By definition, when you are a politician, you want people to like you, you want people to respond to what you’re doing, you want to learn what they want to hear so you can say it to them,” Weiner told the New York Times Magazine in an interview released Wednesday. “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.’”
But still, Weiner has his eyes on New York’s 2013 mayoral race.
“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,” he said. “I think to some degree I do want to say to them, ‘Give me another chance.’”
The sex scandal–without actual sex–caused Weiner to resign from Congress in June 2011. In May of the same year, he tweeted a sexually suggestive picture of himself to a college-aged woman. At the time, he had been leading in early polls as a candidate for the mayor of New York and was married to Huma Abedin, who was pregnant and working as deputy chief of staff to then Sec. of State Hillary Clinton.
Instead of privately sending the sexually explicit smartphone image solely to the younger woman, Weiner tweeted it to all 45,000 of his followers. “I knew it was bad,” Weiner said in the interview. “Huma was coming back from overseas, and I called her 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, who became his son’s primary caretaker upon his resignation and started to see a therapist after the scandal, was elected to Congress in 1998. He had been seeing a lot of Abedin when Hillary Clinton became a senator from New York in 2001. Abedin was at that time working as Clinton’s senior adviser.
When Weiner sat next to Clinton at George W. Bush’s State of the Union address in 2007, he served as a buffer between her and Barack Obama, her new political rival. “I appreciate you looking out for my boss,” Abedin texted Weiner. The couple wed by the spring of 2011.
After lying to reporters and the American public about the tweeted pictures, Weiner said he realized he needed to come clean. He eventually admitted to several inappropriate Twitter, Facebook, email, and phone conversations of an explicit nature that he had shared with about six women.
“I have a choppy memory of it, but [Abedin] was devastated. She immediately said, ‘Well you’ve got to stop lying to everyone else too…You’ve just got to tell everyone the truth. Telling me doesn’t help any.’ It was brutal. It was completely out of control,” he told the magazine.
“There was the crime, there was the cover-up, there was harm I had done to her. And there’s no one who deserved this less than Huma. That’s really the bottom line. No one deserved to have a dope like me do that less than she did.”
Abedin said she was angered and shocked upon Weiner’s confession that the images were indeed his own.
“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?’” Abedin said.
“And it took a long time to be able to sit on a couch next to Anthony and say, ‘OK, I understand and I forgive.’ It was the right choice for me. I didn’t make it lightly,” she said.
She had private conversations about the issue with Clinton, who told her: “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.”
Recently, Weiner’s political committee spent more than $100,000 on polling and research to gauge the public’s reaction and willingness to give him a second chance in politics. Last July, the New York Post reported that he was thinking of running for mayor in 2013. In addition, the New York Daily News reported his name among the candidates voters were questioned about in a mayoral primary poll.
The results of the poll showed that, in general, people are prepared to see beyond Weinergate and give the former congressman, now post-scandal Weiner, a second chance.
Now, six months before the primary, Weiner said he resigned because saving his marriage was more important to him than his career.
“I love Huma a great deal,” he said. “I live with a lot of guilt about what I put her through…She’s given me another chance.”