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Saturday 16 December 2017

Anthony Weiner's tale of self-destruction rocks race for president

Anthony Weiner pictured in 2013 - the former New York politician is once again back in the spotlight (AP)
Anthony Weiner pictured in 2013 - the former New York politician is once again back in the spotlight (AP)

Once an ambitious young congressman, Anthony Weiner lost his career and his marriage to a habit of trading sexually explicit messages that he could not shake.

It is a lurid tale of personal self-destruction that has suddenly found its way into the race for president.

Mr Weiner is separated from Huma Abedin, the vice chairwoman of Hillary Clinton's campaign and one of the Democratic nominee's closest aides.

The investigation into his sexting habits is the "unrelated case" that led the FBI to a new batch of emails, which agency director James Comey told Congress on Friday may be "pertinent to our investigation" into Mrs Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state.

And that has once again cast a spotlight on Mr Weiner, the one-time rising Democratic Party star whose very name has become a punchline.

He was forced to resign his seat in Congress in 2011, after accidentally posting a picture of himself in his underwear - a private message intended for a woman who was not his wife - to his Twitter account.

Ms Abedin stood by him, and he had the audacity to ask for the voters' forgiveness and run for New York mayor two years later. He spent time ahead in the polls, until fresh evidence emerged that he had not given up his sexting habit and destroyed his campaign.

When Mr Weiner was caught again sending racy messages last summer, his wife left him. Federal investigators started a probe in September into whether he had sexted with a 15-year-old girl.

"I am filled with regret and heartbroken for those I have hurt," Mr Weiner said after he and Ms Abedin separated, lamenting what he called his "terrible judgment".

The former congressman did not comment on Saturday, as the impact of his sexting extended far beyond his household.

The brash, liberal and media-savvy Mr Weiner spent seven terms in the House, building a profile as "a Democrat who fights"- an amateur hockey player always ready for a face-off with Republicans.

Some critics saw him as heavy on self-promotion and light on legislative accomplishments.

But liberal supporters cheered his willingness to confront the Republicans on such issues as public radio funding, Planned Parenthood, health benefits for 9/11 first responders and President Barack Obama's health care plan.

As Twitter became popular, he proved a natural at delivering provocations, 140 characters at a time. And then it proved to be his undoing.

In May 2011, a photo of a man's bulging underpants appeared on Mr Weiner's Twitter account. By then married and expecting a baby with Ms Abedin, he initially claimed his Twitter account had been hacked.

But after more racy messages and photos emerged, he admitted engaging in "inappropriate" exchanges with several women, said he was getting treatment and resigned at a chaotic news conference.

Mr Weiner, however, was not out of the public eye for long.

In 2013, he belatedly jumped into the race for mayor of the nation's biggest city, a prize he had eyed since a strong primary run in 2005.

While some voters were aghast, Mr Weiner topped polls of the primary field for several weeks until a woman went public with smutty messages and photos she said the candidate had sent to her, using the alias "Carlos Danger".

He acknowledged he had found new sexting partners after his resignation from Congress, saying he had since stopped.

But his mayoral bid disintegrated into angry exchanges with voters and ended with a middle-finger farewell to reporters after he lost the Democratic primary.

Then, in August, a new batch of sexts became public, including a bulging-underwear shot - with Mr Weiner and Ms Abedin's toddler son in the frame - that a woman said she had received from him in 2015.

By then deeply engaged in Mrs Clinton's campaign, Ms Abedin issued a short statement saying she had decided to leave Mr Weiner.

"Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life," she said.

Weeks later, a 15-year-old girl told that Mr Weiner had sent her sexually explicit text and video messages. Mr Weiner acknowledged communicating with her, but suggested her claims of X-rated exchanges were a hoax.

He added: "I have no-one to blame but me for putting myself in this position."


Press Association

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