Top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is separating from her husband, disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, after the New York Post published semi-nude selfies Weiner took while he was lying in bed with their sleeping son.
The Post story marks Weiner’s third or fourth major sexting scandal since 2011, depending on how you count.
Public speculation around what it would take for the hyper-competent Abedin to dump her husband spiked this spring with the release of an unvarnished documentary about Weiner’s disastrous 2013 mayoral campaign.
The documentary, titled “Weiner,” showed a quietly furious Abedin as she faced serial humiliations as a result of Weiner’s sexting. In one scene, shot while Weiner’s campaign was imploding amid reports of new illicit photos he’d sent to other women, Abedin told a videographer that it was like “living a nightmare.”
Today, questions about Abedin’s limits were answered.
“After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made a decision to separate from my husband,” Abedin said in a statement Monday morning. “Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son.”
The Post story, which ran online with four new pictures of an unclothed Weiner, revealed portions of an online exchange between Weiner and an unidentified woman that began in early 2015 and ran until this month. In July 2015, according to the Post, Weiner sent the woman a revealing image of himself in which his young son is clearly visible next to him. That picture, with his son’s face blurred, ran on the cover of the paper.
Weiner deleted his Twitter account soon after the Post story went online. Abedin’s statement came hours later.Weiner’s rapid-fire reputational roller coaster has accelerated in recent years. Before his first sexting scandal in 2011, the young congressman was considered a leading contender for mayor of New York. In 2013, he chose to run despite the scandal, and led the pack for months until press reports revealed that he had sent more semi-nude photos of himself to women he met online, even as he was preparing his mayoral run. Weiner laid low for years, but in the run-up to the release of “Weiner,” the documentary about the failed campaign, he began to appear regularly on television as a political commentator. He attended the Democratic National Convention in July, and had spots on The Tonight Show, and, appearing in a t-shirt, on the Bloomberg television program “With All Due Respect.”
In August, the New York Times’s Mark Leibovich asked Weiner if he was still “engaging in the activities that got [him] in trouble.” Weiner dodged. “I’m not going to go down the path of talking about any of that,” he told the Times. “But I will say this: There’s no doubt that the Trump phenomenon has led a lot of people to say to me, ‘Boy, compared to inviting the Russians to come hack someone’s email, your thing seems almost quaint.’”
Abedin, for her part, remains a top Clinton advisor. She is vice chair of the Clinton campaign, and a regular presence on the campaign trail. Emails she sent while working for Clinton at the State Department have been at the center of recent stories about Clinton Foundation donors who requested meetings with Clinton while she was Secretary of State.
The separation could have political implications for Clinton, thanks to Abedin’s role in her campaign. In a statement to the Times, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that Abedin was “making a very wise decision,” before pivoting to attack Clinton. “I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information,” Trump said. “Who knows what he learned and who he told.”
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Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.