Anthony Weiner, the disgraced New York congressman who resigned from office in 2011 after mistakenly posting a lewd photo of himself on Twitter, is now weighing a run for mayor with hopes the public will give him a second chance.
“I do recognize, to some degree, it’s now or maybe never for me, in terms of running for something,” he told the New York Times Magazine in an interview posted online Wednesday.
“I’m trying to gauge not only what’s right and what feels comfortable right this second, but I’m also thinking, 'How will I feel in a year or two years or five years? Is this the time that I should be doing it?' And then there’s the other side of the coin, which is . . . am I still the same person who I thought would make a good mayor?”
The humbled Democrat now plays the role of stay-at-home husband and primary caretaker of his year-old son, picking up his wife’s dry cleaning and sticking close to their Park Avenue apartment. In the extensive interview, Weiner appears repentant for the sexting scandal that tipped his career into free-fall and jeopardized his marriage to Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In May 2011, Weiner accidentally posted a groin shot of himself wearing gray boxer briefs on Twitter, thinking he had sent it privately to a young college student. He initially claimed his account had been hacked but came clean once it emerged that he sent similarly lewd images and messages online to other women he had not met.
“I wasn’t really thinking. What does this mean that I’m doing this? Is this risky behavior? Is this smart behavior?” he said. “To me, it was just another way to feed this notion that I want to be liked and admired.”
Abedin said that although she still feels flashes of anger or disbelief about her husband’s behavior, she has forgiven him. At the time the couple was newly married and, unbeknownst to the public, also expecting their first child.
“I’m not going to say that was an easy or fast decision that I made,” Abedin said. “It’s been almost two years now. I did spend a lot of time saying and thinking: ‘I. Don’t. Understand.’ And it took a long time to be able to sit on a couch next to Anthony and say, ‘O.K., I understand and I forgive.’ It was the right choice for me. I didn’t make it lightly.”
Weiner expresses deep regret throughout the interview, often tearing up when reflecting on what Abedin went through and her decision to stay with him, noted the writer of the piece, Jonathan van Meter.
"He's still racked with a sort of shame and pain and guilt about it,” he told TODAY. “And he cried, I think, every time I interviewed him at some point."
Weiner said while he does not know when he would make a firm decision about running for mayor, he acknowledged he would be the underdog. However, he would have a $4.3 million war chest to work with, funds left over from a previous mayoral campaign. He also would be eligible for an additional $1.5 million in public matching funds, which he risks losing if he does not use the money by the end of the year.
Weiner already has spent $100,000 on polling to gauge whether voters felt they could get over the scandal.
“People are generally prepared to get over it, but they don’t know if they’re prepared to vote for me. And there’s a healthy number of people who will never get over it,” he said. “It’s a little complicated because I always attracted a fairly substantial amount of people who didn’t like me anyway. I am a bit of a polarizing case.”
Weiner and Abedin said they decided to conduct the magazine interview, their most extensive since he was forced to resign from office, to finally move beyond the scandal.
“We have been in a defensive crouch for so long,” he said. “We are ready to clear the decks on this thing.”