Anthony Weiner’s rivals were split last night on whether the ex-lawmaker should drop his bid for mayor of New York after he admitted that he continued to send sexual messages to women he met online even after he was forced out of Congress over the issue.
Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker who has been statistically tied with Weiner in recent Democratic primary polls, said the latest revelations called into question whether Weiner has the “maturity and judgment” to lead. But she stopped short of calling for him to exit the race, saying that was a “decision for him to make”.
Weiner found himself in a familiar position — standing in front of the cameras at a hastily-called press conference, asking for the public’s forgiveness again.
Just like the scandal that destroyed his congressional career, he stood side-by-side with his wife to say he won’t drop out of the race.
“This is entirely behind me,” Weiner said, hours after the gossip website The Dirty posted X-rated text messages and a crotch shot that it said the former congressman exchanged with a woman after he left office.
Weiner admitted sending a woman sexually explicit photos and messages and acknowledged the activity took place as recently as last summer, more than a year after he resigned from Congress in disgrace for the same sort of behaviour with at least a half-dozen women.
But with his wife, Huma Abedin, smiling an arm’s length away from him, he said: “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.”
Weiner then turned the microphone over to his wife, who did not appear with him at the Jun 2011 news conference when he stepped down from Congress over a scandal that began with a Twitter photo of his bulging underpants.
This time, Abedin reaffirmed her support for her husband.
“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 long-time adviser to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
Abedin said her husband had made some “horrible mistakes both before he resigned from Congress and after” but insisted the two of them discussed “all of this” before he jumped into the mayor’s race in May.
Harper’s Bazaar released an excerpt from a piece Abedin wrote explaining that although she doesn’t like the limelight, she decided to campaign for him because he’s “a better man” now.
The latest disclosures could severely test voters’ willingness to forgive Weiner, who has said he spent his two years in political exile since the scandal trying to make things right with his wife and earn redemption.
The New York Times and three of his rivals for mayor called on him to drop out of the race. The 48-year-old Democrat has been near the top of most polls since his late entry into the campaign.
“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.
After the news conference, Weiner went directly to 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 a social networking site. She said their online relationship began in Jul 2012 and lasted six months.
She said Weiner used the alias “Carlos Danger” for their exchanges but that she knew she was talking to the former congressman.
The exchanges posted on The Dirty consist of sexually explicit fantasies 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 Chicago for a tryst.
The woman said she and Weiner also exchanged nude photos of themselves and engaged in phone sex. The Dirty ran a pixellated photo of what it said were Weiner’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 told 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 said her relationship with Weiner “fizzled” in Nov 2012. She said she last heard from him in April, when his intention to run for mayor was revealed in a New York Times Magazine profile.
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