Anthony Weiner and the Forever Scandal

Of course, there are new graphic photos and messages. In the political scandals of the future, the leaks come long and slow.

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Reuters

Surprise! Anthony Weiner, the New York City mayoral candidate, confirmed reports on Tuesday that he is the man behind a new series of lewd pictures and texts allegedly sent to a woman last year and released this week by The Dirty. According to The Dirty, the messages were exchanged sometime around last August. In a press conference Tuesday night, Weiner said that "some of these things happened before my [Congressional] resignation, some of them happened after." The woman who received the messages claims she was promised, among other things, help in obtaining a job at Politico. The best, least-explicit fact: When he sent pictures of his genitals over Yahoo!, Weiner used the alias "Carlos Danger." 

At the Tuesday night press conference, Weiner said that while there is "no question that what I did is wrong" that "this behavior is behind me." He apologized to anyone "who has been on the recieving end of these messages" but that "in many ways, things are not much more different than they were yesterday." Weiner insisted that his online relationships and encounters are "entirely behind me," and that his wife "knew along" about the most recent revelation.

The most shocking and emotional moment of the presser came when Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, spoke for the first time publically at a news conference on Weiner's past scandals. Admitting to being "very nervous," she said:

When we faced this publicly two years ago, it was the beginning of a time in our marriage that was very difficult…our marriage, like many others, has had its ups and its downs. It took a lot of work, and a whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony. It was not an easy choice, in any way. But I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage. That was a decision I made for me, for our son, and for our family. I didn't know how it would work out. But I did know that I wanted to give it a try.

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I love him. I have forgiven him. I believe in him. And as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward.

But, also, this shouldn't be surprising news. Back in April, when Weiner first announced his candidacy for mayor, he specifically said that there could be more photos and messages out there. And he said that it's possible that another person may come forward. On Tuesday, Weiner referenced those statements in his new apology:

I said that other texts and photos were likely to come out, and today they have. 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. While some things that have been posted today are true and some are not, there is no question that what I did was wrong. This behavior is behind me. I've apologized to Huma and am grateful that she has worked through these issues with me and for her forgiveness. 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.

So really, we had a good idea that this was coming. And it isn't so out of the ordinary for a guy who resigned from Congress over similar issues just two years ago. Despite this, Anthony Weiner has still been doing well in recent polls. Quinnipiac had him up against City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, 25 percent to 22 percent last week. And he was only slightly down against Quinn among women, 23 percent to 21 percent. Overall, right now polls look to be pretty neck-and-neck. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the latest revelations will have any impact.

But the most truly unique thing about this scandal is just how incredibly long-running it is. Sending pictures of your genitals to strangers over the Internet doesn't lend itself to the scale or scope of Watergate. But it's playing out over a similar timeframe, with the new revelations coming two years after Weiner resigned from Congress.

Why is this, exactly? Blame the Internet. In an age where more and more of our lives—both the cheery and the dark—exists online, it shouldn't be surprising to see a politician caught up in a web of Internet muck. And there's every reason to expect this to keep happening. Right now, it's the kids of politicians who have largely been getting into political trouble (See: Jeff Flake). But once those kids, and that generation, starts running for office and winning in larger numbers, it's safe to assume we'll be seeing more Anthony Weiner-type scandals. 

Weiner isn't even the only member of Congress to recently be brought down by the Internet. New York's Chris Lee resigned in 2011 after a posting of him posing on Craigslist was uncovered by Gawker. And it's not quite implausible to think that if Chris Lee suddenly reemerged in political life, he could be haunted by as-yet-unleaked postings from his past. That's the obvious nature of the Internet that is only just now becoming a fact of political life: What goes online, stays online. Forever.

And don't think for a second that Weiner is the only person who has ever held elected office who has thought that calling himself a pseudonym like "Carlos Danger" online would be a good idea.

This post originally appeared on National Journal, an Atlantic partner site.

About the Author

  • Matt Berman is an online editor at National Journal.