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Friend: Sydney Leathers in sexting scandal loves politics, 'idealized' Weiner

By Melissa Gray. Laurie Segall and Erica Fink, CNN
July 26, 2013 -- Updated 1531 GMT (2331 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "I felt manipulated," Leathers tells "Inside Edition" about Weiner
  • Weiner promised Sydney Elaine Leathers a condo in Chicago, friend says
  • Leathers, 23, first contacted Weiner on Twitter because she was a fan
  • "She had told me that she sent him numerous naked pictures," friend says

(CNN) -- The woman at the center of the Anthony Weiner scandal is a 23-year-old Indiana native who is passionate about politics and was a strong supporter of the New York politician even after he resigned from Congress amid similar circumstances two years ago, a friend said.

Sydney Elaine Leathers actively posts about politics and her Democratic views on Facebook. That's where she met Lou Colagiovanni, a political blogger and writer who moderates a political Facebook page where Leathers frequently posted messages.

"She absolutely idealized this man," Colagiovanni told CNN on Wednesday of the respect Leathers had for Weiner, now running for New York mayor.

A summer of lies

The gossip website TheDirty.com on Tuesday published a collection of sexual messages and blurred photos exchanged by Weiner and a woman the site did not identify. Weiner admitted later Tuesday that he had engaged in the lewd chats and apologized. Calls poured in for him to withdraw from the race.

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The website Buzzfeed, in a story Wednesday, was the first to identify Leathers by name as the woman behind the messages.

CNN made multiple attempts to reach Leathers for comment without success.

But in an interview Thursday with the television program "Inside Edition," Leathers said the former congressman deceived her when he contacted her online.

"I felt manipulated," Leathers said. "Obviously I felt like he's saying one thing to me, another thing to his wife, saying another thing on the campaign trail. I don't know who the real Anthony Weiner is, I guess."

She was astonished that Weiner would revert to the behavior that led to his resignation from Congress in 2011.

"I was shocked because I didn't think he would be so foolish as to do the same thing all over again," she said. "He was making these campaign promises that he had totally changed, and he was a better man now, and he learned from his mistakes, and I have proof that that was not true."

Colagiovanni showed CNN unblurred versions of the same messages and photos released by TheDirty.com that also show Leathers is the woman with whom Weiner was corresponding.

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According to Colagiovanni, Leathers first told him about her online relationship with the former congressman in April, after it had ended.

She said the relationship began "post-scandal" -- after Weiner resigned from Congress in June 2011 -- and Colagiovanni said the online contact went on for at least eight or nine months, possibly a year.

She and Weiner made contact on Twitter and used other platforms to correspond, including Facebook, Formspring and e-mail, Colagiovanni said. Weiner's e-mail address contained the phrase "CarlosDanger3333," Colagiovanni said.

"She initially contacted him through Twitter," he said. "She said that she was a fan.... I assume that based on how beautiful of a young lady that Sydney is, Anthony Weiner had no choice but to act on his instincts and go after any pretty young woman who gives him the time of day.

"She thought he was a righteous fighter for the middle class," he added.

Leathers is a political liberal and very passionate about women's issues, even going to Texas to attend a rally for Wendy Davis, the Democrat state senator who recently filibustered an abortion bill.

Chat logs show that Weiner offered Leathers a condo in Chicago, Colagiovanni said.

"She had mentioned to me that he promised her a condo," Colagiovanni said. "He offered to help her move so there was certainly conversations about that."

Colagiovanni said he doesn't know whether Leathers and Weiner actually met.

"There was tawdry phone sex that went on between these two for months on end," Colagiovanni told CNN. "She had told me that she sent him numerous naked pictures."

Colagiovanni gave CNN a copy of the Facebook conversations he had with Leathers in which she described the relationship. He also shared lewd e-mails that Leathers forwarded from Weiner, written under his alias, Carlos Danger.

Leathers told Colagiovanni in their Facebook conversations that she and the congressman had phone sex, texted, e-mailed and sent each other nude pictures of themselves.

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"We talked ALL the time," Leathers wrote to Colagiovanni. "He even called in August, knowing I was on a train to Chicago, just to tell me about a sex dream he had about me. He did that kind of thing a lot. He was also obsessed with me wearing heels lol."

But by April of this year, things had turned sour, and Leathers felt let down and disappointed by the man she once held in high regard, Colagiovanni said.

"Sydney loved him but then she fell out of love with him because the idealized vision in which she had of him was not true, was not the case," he told CNN. "She became disgusted with him after finding out that the person who she thought she was in love with was not indeed that person."

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Colagiovanni, who said he has been involved in dozens of political campaigns around the country and works as a media consultant, said he and Leathers discussed selling the story. He told her she could use it as a "springboard for national attention to ride on to fame and fortune."

"I hope we make some $ out of it," she wrote. "There is not a doubt in my mind that we won't makes (sic) thousands and thousands of dollars," he replied.

Though it was CNN that contacted Colagiovanni, he said he wanted to share Leathers' messages to him and her correspondence with Weiner because he felt betrayed by her.

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"I feel this was my story," he said. "I had cultivated this story. I sat on it for months. I was reluctant to release it because Sydney told me, 'Listen, I don't want this story to go out, I don't want anybody to know about it.'"

He said he asked her about 10 days ago what she was doing with the story, and she still told Colagiovanni she didn't want anyone to know about it.

"And then as everybody saw on TheDirty.com, the story did come out, so she misled me in her ideas of what she wanted to have happen here," Colagiovanni said. "So why I'm talking to you now is, I want my story to get out there."

He is hoping to sell his story somehow. "I'm not going to lie: I have bills to pay," he said. "Everybody does."

Weiner wouldn't be in race without his wife

CNN's, Randi Kaye and Gabrielle Rodman contributed to this report.

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