Commentary Magazine


Was Weiner Ethically Obliged Not to Run?

Today’s New York Times story on the continuing harassment and humiliation of the women at the center of the Anthony Weiner scandal is a play in two acts. Two weeks ago the Times first posted the story, but it was immediately taken off the website and replaced with a production note: “An article was posted on this page inadvertently, before it was ready for publication.”

The Times declined to comment further in response to Politico’s inquiries, but pointed readers to a post by the Times’s public editor, explaining: “From what I’ve been able to piece together, there was a miscommunication among Times editors. Some thought the article was ready to go, and sent it on through the editorial production cycle. At least one other editor — higher up on the food chain — disagreed about its readiness and did not intend it to be published, at least not at that point.”

Yet as time went by, the story didn’t reemerge on the paper’s website. So Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski used Google searches to try to piece together the story, and published his findings yesterday. You can probably guess what happened next: the Times immediately published the article–for good (it appears), denying, of course, that their decision had anything to do with Kaczynski’s piece. The result is that the former liberal hero Weiner’s coverage in the Times goes from bad to worse.

Whereas the June 12 Times article explained to readers that Weiner was a vicious, shallow, disloyal, and ineffectual congressman, today’s reminds readers that his sexting scandal was not just about him. And he’s not the only one trying to put this incident in the past. The headline is “For Women in Weiner Scandal, Indignity Lingers,” and the story reads as if the intent is to shame Weiner for running for mayor:

Anthony D. Weiner’s improbable campaign for mayor of New York City is a wager that voters have made peace with his lewd online behavior, a subject he has largely left behind as he roils the race with his aggressive debating style and his attention-getting policy proposals.

But for the women who were on the other end of Mr. Weiner’s sexually explicit conversations and photographs, his candidacy is an unwanted reminder of a scandal that has upended their lives in ways big and small, cutting short careers, disrupting educations and damaging reputations.

It should be noted that for some of these women the scandal is the result of choices they have made. They knew who Weiner was when they got involved with him, and presumably knew the risks. For one of them, Weiner’s political star power was much of the draw. But that’s not true of all the women. One young college student said she only talked politics with him, and that she “was shocked by his unwanted advance.” And then Weiner made a famous misstep:

When Mr. Weiner inadvertently posted the image publicly on Twitter, the Internet quickly rendered its own verdict, branding Ms. Cordova, incorrectly, she says, a participant in his online dalliances. The news media dug up Ms. Cordova’s old yearbooks and sifted through police records, publicizing her youthful indiscretions. The attention prompted her to withdraw from academic classes. She moved from Seattle to New York City, before Mr. Weiner’s decision to run for mayor, eager to leave a place where she had become known for her ties to the unfolding drama.

But, with Mr. Weiner back in the spotlight, the story has followed her across the country. A few weeks ago, a reporter showed up, unannounced, at her office, asking her about Mr. Weiner.

You can argue that if Cordova wanted to get away from the attention brought on by her association with Anthony Weiner, moving from Seattle to New York City–Weiner’s home town and the media capital of the world–wasn’t the best choice. But Cordova at least seems to have wanted neither the lascivious attention of Anthony Weiner nor the prying attention of the news media. One of the other women involved, who exchanged explicit messages with the former congressman and is now writing a book about it, is a far less sympathetic figure in this story.

Another of the women, a former adult film actress, asked Weiner not to run for mayor because of the story. That brings up an interesting question: Does Anthony Weiner have a responsibility to these women to stay out of the limelight? The answer with regard to the women who sought Weiner’s affections and now the publicity of a book tour is clearly no. But what about the others?

I suppose that’s one question the voters of New York City will answer in the fall election. They may think–as the Times seems to–that Weiner is humiliating these women all over again to feed his own ego and desire for power. But the election will truly test how difficult it is to regain political stature after a sex scandal. Weiner has admitted that there are more lewd photos out there, which means the mayoral election won’t take place after the scandal, but amid the scandal. If he’s elected in those conditions, it will prove voters to be forgiving and the rest of the field of candidates to be even less formidable than they seemed.

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