Democrats had long observed a code of omertà around Anthony Weiner, hoping to spare his estranged wife and top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin from the glare of the press. But now that his sexting habit threatens to derail Clinton’s presidential ambitions, party leaders aren’t holding back their anger toward the disgraced former congressman.
“Well, oh God, Anthony Weiner,” Vice President Joe Biden said, leading the pack in a Friday interview on CNN. “I should not comment on Anthony Weiner. I’m not a big fan. I wasn’t before he got in trouble. So I shouldn’t comment on Anthony Weiner.”
Other Democrats soon followed. Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York told the New York Times, “I can’t stand him — even before this.” Other figures speaking out included union leader Randi Weingarten, the Rev. Al Sharpton and a bevy of strategists and donors.
Weiner surfaced in the presidential election last week after the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized a laptop that he and Abedin shared, as part of an inquiry into charges that he sexted with a 15-year old in North Carolina. While combing the machine for evidence against him, the agency discovered a trove of emails sent to Abedin from Clinton.
Back in the summer, the Democratic nominee faced allegations that she had sent classified information over a private email server while secretary of state. FBI director James Comey declined to prosecute her over that issue following a lengthy investigation.
But the possibility of discovering previously unrecovered Clinton emails on the Weiner device means there might be further evidence that the Democratic nominee sent and received classified information on her private server, a development that could shake up the presidential contest.
Weiner’s troubles unfolded in three acts. Five years ago, he lost his seat in Congress when news of his sexting first became public.
He then attempted to rebound by running to succeed Michael Bloomberg as mayor of New York City. That bid stalled when it was revealed that he had continued to exchange lewd messages over the Internet.
By this summer, he seemed to be settling into a gig as a political commentator for the New York Daily News and the cable station NY1. Once a third round of sexting allegations surfaced, this time implicating him in communicating with a minor, he lost those opportunities and also his wife, who announced she was separating from him.
Before his fall from grace, he was a close ally of the Clintons. He served as a fierce defender of Hillary Clinton in her 2008 primary clash with President Barack Obama. Bill Clinton officiated his wedding to Abedin.
Democrats voiced a sense of exasperation with the former congressman on the heels of the new revelations. “I don’t care who it is, no one should be a sexual predator,” Weingarten told The Times. “I think we all have to take a stand about that, and I think what’s happening now is that people are.”
“We’re still talking about that asshole during a presidential election?” John Burton, the chairman of the California Democratic primary, vented to The Times.
According to recent polls, the public is as sick of him as the party. A survey taken by Politico/Morning Consult over the weekend found that Weiner had a rock-bottom approval rating of 8%.
“He is like a recurring nightmare,” the Rev. Al Sharpton, told The Times, using an evocative metaphor. “It’s like one of those ‘Damien’ movies — it’s like every time you think he’s dead, he keeps coming again.”
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.