Skip to main content

Weiner wouldn't have been in race without wife by his side

By Dan Merica, CNN
July 25, 2013 -- Updated 1334 GMT (2134 HKT)
With his wife, Huma Abedin, by his side, New York mayoral candidate and former congressman Anthony Weiner confirms on July 23 that some of the sexually explicit online exchanges that were published by a gossip website happened after previous revelations forced him to resign from the U.S. House in 2011. With his wife, Huma Abedin, by his side, New York mayoral candidate and former congressman Anthony Weiner confirms on July 23 that some of the sexually explicit online exchanges that were published by a gossip website happened after previous revelations forced him to resign from the U.S. House in 2011.
HIDE CAPTION
Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin
Eliot and Silda Spitzer
David and Wendy Vitter
Larry and Suzanne Thompson Craig
Jim McGreevy and Dina Matos
Bill and Hillary Clinton
Those who didn't: Elizabeth Edwards
Those who didn't: Jenny Sanford
Those who didn't: Darlene Ensign
Those who didn't: Maria Shriver
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Huma Abedin's blessing was critical to his mayoral campaign
  • Consultant says winning the trust of the person you harmed most is key to moving on
  • Women who are wronged by cheating spouse are often in no-win situation, psychologist says

Washington (CNN) -- Without Huma Abedin publicly forgiving him, it is unlikely that Anthony Weiner would be running to become New York's next mayor.

"If his wife had not been by his side, Weiner's hot dog would be cooked," said Ana Navarro, a Republican political consultant and CNN contributor.

From the start of Weiner's campaign, Huma Abedin's blessing had been critical. Once Weiner acknowledged a desire to run for mayor, a year after the former New York congressman resigned over a sexting scandal in 2011, Abedin blessed her husband's political aspirations in a number of high profile interviews.

Borger: Weiner's problem is our problem, too

Did Weiner's wife do the right thing?

And on Tuesday, after another round of sexting allegations emerged, Abedin once again stood beside him and publicly announced her forgiveness.

"It took a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony," Abedin said. "It was not an easy choice in any way, but I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage."

Huma Abedin steps from scandal's shadow into spotlight

Political consultants, psychologists and crisis communicators all give different opinions on why Abedin, a powerful Washington adviser and close confidant to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, publicly forgave her husband.

But by standing next to Weiner on Tuesday, Abedin joins a long line of political wives -- including Clinton, her mentor -- who stood next to their men as they answered questions about sexual impropriety.

Winning back trust -- from your wife

Weiner: Voters not interested in my past
Anthony Weiner "has serious illness"
Who is Huma Abedin?
Weiner admits to more lewd chats, photos

Most experts said if Abedin hadn't stood next to him, Weiner's campaign for mayor could have been finished. Instead the campaign is severely damaged, but not irreparably.

"From a communication standpoint, I or any other person in my field would say the same thing. Tell the truth, get your wife up there with you, get her support and win the election," crisis communication expert Robbie Vorhaus said.

Vorhaus said that winning the support of the person closest to you -- the person whose trust you damaged the most -- is the most important part of that formula.

Opinion: Why does Weiner's wife stay?

"Once you have a wife, a spouse, standing up there and saying, 'I forgive him,' what right do we have, theoretically, to hold it against him," Vorhaus said. "The truth is the ultimate spin and if he comes out and says, 'I made a mistake, I made my peace with my wife and she has forgiven me and now I want to be mayor of New York.' What do you, as a voter, say?"

Calls for 'Carlos Danger' to step aside pour in

Does a wife's blessing help make a political comeback?

"Yes, it is critical," said Don Goldberg, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton and a partner at the Bluetext communications company.

But that might be changing, he said.

"I think we are in a real transition period here," he said.

As proof, Goldberg points to newly elected Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

After the then-governor admitted to sneaking away to Argentina to be with his mistress in June 2009, Jenny Sanford moved out of the governor's mansion and later divorced him.

But Sanford, after offering a mea culpa to the people of South Carolina, triumphed in special election last month.

"I think the conventional wisdom that the wife has to be supportive and that they can't be out there trashing you," Goldberg said. "South Carolina may show that is changing, though."

Congress, lewd photos and NYC's mayoral race: An Anthony Weiner timeline

Politics and publicity

Women in Abedin's position are in a no-win situation, said Dr. Jeff Gardere, a clinical psychologist.

"If they don't stand by that person, their family could be very much hurt by this," he said.

There are a number of reasons that women stay with an unfaithful man, Gardere said: Children, religious beliefs, a feeling that they can change.

But when politics and publicity are involved, the situation is dramatically altered.

Hillary Clinton was with her husband in January 1998 when he denied having "sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Though she notably distanced herself from him as they later walked to Marine One, the duo is still married today.

"I think the campaign is much more difficult when the person next to you walks away," Gardere said. "The message is 'I am through with this person, I think he is deeply flawed.' If you, the person who knows him best, walks away from him, it is harder for the public to believe in him."

The enduring image of Tuesday's news conference -- where a uncomfortable Abedin stood next to her husband -- sent mixed messages to voters and was a risky proposal, Navarro said.

"Not having the wife next to you can be certainly, in the short term, a death knell," Navarro said. "But having her out there is a risky proposal because for most people, certainly most women, it was painful to watch her public humiliation and the guy responsible standing right next to her, looking over her shoulder. I think every woman watching that puts herself in that position."

But according Goldberg, sort of public awkwardness is better than the alternative.

"I think that having the wife somehow involved, to whatever degree is very important," Goldberg said. "What is important is to be viewed as not totally accepting, because then it looks like the marriage is a joke. But you have to have enough sense of acknowledgment and contrition that is looks and sounds genuine."

Should Huma stand by her man?

A mutually dependent relationship

The theory Darrell Hayes, a crisis communications professor at American University, thinks about most when he sees a news conference like Weiner's is "co-dependency."

"It is the idea that people assume that it is better to fight through the relationship than break it off," Hayes said. "I get the sense that is the case with Anthony Weiner."

The reason for co-dependency, Hayes speculates, is possibly political aspirations for the family, not just her husband.

That opinion was echoed by a number of experts.

As for why Abedin stood next to Weiner, Goldberg said, "It is probably a combination of support, humility, embarrassment and ego."

Navarro, who described Abedin as "a very strong, independent, successful" woman, said her standing beside Weiner on Tuesday opened the family up to a different line of questioning.

"Why do people want this so bad that they are willing to subject themselves to this humiliation again?"

Opinion: The public humiliation of Huma Abedin

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
It didn't take long for the calls to come in for Anthony Weiner to withdraw from the New York City mayoral contest following his shocking admission.
With his wife by his side, Weiner said that some of the sexually explicit online exchanges happened after his resignation from the U.S. House in 2011.
July 26, 2013 -- Updated 1531 GMT (2331 HKT)
The woman at the center of the scandal is a 23-year-old Indiana native who was a strong supporter of the politician even after he resigned from Congress.
July 25, 2013 -- Updated 1334 GMT (2134 HKT)
Without Huma Abedin publicly forgiving him, it is unlikely that Anthony Weiner would be running to become New York's next mayor.
July 25, 2013 -- Updated 2127 GMT (0527 HKT)
Isn't it time to call the spectacle of the suffering political wife, standing by her man in the media glare as he admits to his latest sexual offense against her, what it really is: spousal abuse?
July 24, 2013 -- Updated 1420 GMT (2220 HKT)
New York doesn't seem to be so sure the former congressman should continue his quest to become the city's next mayor.
July 24, 2013 -- Updated 1148 GMT (1948 HKT)
Huma Abedin was front and center as Weiner confessed to having further explicit exchanges, even after the first scandal forced his resignation from Congress.
July 25, 2013 -- Updated 1502 GMT (2302 HKT)
Just about any woman who watched Huma Abedin publicly declare her decision to stick with her husband, embattled New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, had to feel sympathy for her. How could you not?
July 25, 2013 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
Psst! Here's a truth: Politicians lie. They lie about their personal lives like Anthony Weiner did. And Eliot Spitzer. And Mark Sanford. And Bill Clinton. And John Edwards. Shall we go on?
July 24, 2013 -- Updated 2059 GMT (0459 HKT)
Anthony Weiner resigned after admitting to sending lewd images to multiple women. But it seems that getting caught wasn't enough to stop him from repeating his mistakes.
July 24, 2013 -- Updated 1530 GMT (2330 HKT)
Let me just start by saying this: Redemption, political or otherwise, is a good thing.
July 24, 2013 -- Updated 1337 GMT (2137 HKT)
From the first explicit photos to his denial, resignation from Congress, bid for New York mayor and the latest scandal, here's a look at former Rep. Anthony Weiner's last few years in the spotlight:
July 24, 2013 -- Updated 0351 GMT (1151 HKT)
Click through our photo gallery to see which wives have stood by their husbands amidst scandal, and which ones left.
ADVERTISEMENT