Anthony Weiner, the congressman who resigned his New York seat in 2011 after he misfired a photo of his groin on Twitter and then lied about his sexual exploits online, is eyeing a run for mayor and says he wants to ask voters for a second chance.
"I do recognize, to some degree, it’s now or maybe never for me, in terms of running for something," Weiner tells the Times. "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?'"
“Also, I want to ask people to give me a second chance," he went on. "I do want to have that conversation with people whom I let down and with people who put their faith in me and who wanted to support me. I think to some degree I do want to say to them, ‘Give me another chance.’ ”
The more than $4 million he had raised before resigning is still in play, campaign finance officials have said. Weiner filed a disclosure form with the Campaign Finance Board last month that showed him spending money on polling.
Weiner said the polling he has done has shown mixed opinions.
“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 told the Times. "It’s a little complicated because I always attracted a fairly substantial amount of people who didn’t like me anyway.”
The 46-year-old married lawmaker and his wife, longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, gave a series of extensive and personal interviews to the Times, in part because Weiner is exploring a public comeback and they wanted to clear the air and talk about the scandal as a way to put it behind them.
Weiner told NBC 4 New York outside his home in Manhattan Wednesday he wouldn't offer any comment "besides what was in the New York Times today" but hoped to "get a chance to talk later on."
Weiner first tweeted the photo on May 27, 2011, then quickly sent a followup tweet claiming he had been hacked, a lie he maintained for 10 days. During that time he alternated between silence and media appearances where he was irate that reporters would not let the issue go.
During a key interview with MSNBC shortly after the tweet, Weiner said he could not say "with certitude" that it wasn't him in the photo. He also hired a lawyer and declined to involve police in the supposed hacking, which raised flags among those who believed he had sent the lewd tweet.
It was shortly after that day that Weiner confessed to his wife.
“I have a choppy memory of it, but she was devastated," he told the Times. "She immediately said, ‘Well you’ve got to stop lying to everyone else too.’"
On June 6, hours after conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart announced that he had more incriminating photos of Weiner, including graphic sexual images, the congressman called a news conference where he confessed to tweeting the original photo and said he had maintained several other "inappropriate" relationships online.
"To be clear, the picture was of me, and I sent it," he said that day, at times choking up. "I haven’t told the truth, and I’ve done things I deeply regret. I brought pain to people I care about the most and the people who believed in me, and for that I’m deeply sorry."
Weiner, who was first elected to Congress in 1998 and was considered a front-runner for mayor this year, said at the time that he did not break any laws.
He also insisted he never met any of the women he corresponded with. Days later, it was revealed Abedin was pregnant with their first child.
When asked whether Clinton had helped guide her through the early difficult days of the scandal, Abedin said she couldn't reveal their private conversations, but said of the Clintons: "the unconditional love and support they have given me has been a real gift."
Abedin said the choice to stay with Weiner wasn't easy.
"There was a deep love there, but it was coupled with a tremendous feeling of betrayal. It took a lot of work, both mentally and in the way we engage with each other, for me to get to a place where I said: ‘O.K., I’m in. I’m staying in this marriage,'" she said.
But Democrats did abandon him, calling for his resignation, one after another. As the days passed, more embarrassing photos leaked out, along with transcripts of messages Weiner allegedly sent to various women. More photos showed Weiner, some half-naked and posing with a towel, that he shot with his BlackBerry in the House members' gym, raising again questions about whether he had crossed ethics lines by engaging in that behavior on Capitol grounds.
He resigned on June 16, 20 days after sending the tweet.
Weiner admitted to the Times that what drove his inappropriate relationships online was "a world and a profession that had me wanting people's approval."
"By definition, when you are a politician, you want people to like you, you want people to respond to what you’re doing, you want to learn what they want to hear so you can say it to them," he said.
But then he'd be searching for that kind of feedback late at night online, and it would take a turn.
"So somewhere in there it got to a place where I was trying to engage people in nothing about being a politician," he said. "Or sometimes it would start out about politics and then, ‘You’re a great guy.’ ‘Oh, thanks, you’re great, too.’ ‘I think you’re handsome.’"
Weiner told the Times he thinks many people would be surprised to know the answer to the question: "what was he thinking?"
“I wasn’t really thinking. What does this mean that I’m doing this? Is this risky behavior? Is this smart behavior? To me, it was just another way to feed this notion that I want to be liked and admired.”