He was a congressman, he was a sexter.
He was a mayoral candidate, he was a sexter.
He was the subject of a cringing documentary, he was a sexter.
He was ultimately the owner of a computer, seized by the FBI for sexting, that ended up playing a massive role in the 2016 presidential election. He was the husband of one of Hillary Clinton’s trusted aides, now he’s her ex-husband.
And now, Anthony Weiner will officially have a criminal record. The New York Times, citing an unnamed source, reported that Weiner will plead guilty Friday for a single charge of sending obscene material to a minor.
This is Weiner’s story, and it’s a sad one.
Since the New York Democratic congressman resigned in 2011, Weiner popped back into the public sphere like the moles from one of those whack-a-mole games at the arcade, often when we’d least expect him. And each time, the political world couldn’t look away. And each time, we felt something different about this man and his phone.
Weiner’s story was first late-night-TV worthy (a picture of his you-know-what out there on Twitter? And his last name is Weiner?!).
It morphed into a classic politician sex scandal: “I have said that other texts and photos were likely to come out and today they have,” he said in a 2013 news conference as new sexts emerged in the middle of his failed run for mayor of New York City. ” … There is no question that what I did was wrong. This behavior is behind me.”
Then Weiner’s story became a bloody car crash unfolding on our TV screens as “Weiner,” a May 2016 documentary about that mayoral run that immolated his higher-profile wife. Abedin was in the middle of trying to hold together a presidential campaign for her longtime boss and friend, Hillary Clinton, and the documentary probing the rifts in her marriage was just plain weird.
“It was astonishing for Abedin to have allowed such a film as ‘Weiner’ to be made at all — much less to put a high-definition, close-up lens to the most humiliating chapter of her life,” wrote The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty.
Also, what about Weiner? “Why would Weiner want such a film out there? Is it a blind addiction to the spotlight? Some kind of twisted PR ploy? An effort to humanize himself?” I asked at the time.
Apparently Weiner got some kind of boost from it. He tried to bait Donald Trump Jr. into running against him for mayor of New York City.
— Joe Toohey (@joetoohey) July 26, 2016
Too soon Anthony!!! You probably shouldn’t be talking about beating anything ever again. Go back to your cave. https://t.co/Mingecu6o9
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 26, 2016
Then, a turning point. A few months after the documentary was released, Weiner sexted again. This time with his toddler son in the bed.
By the next morning, Weiner had deleted his Twitter account. By that afternoon, Abedin announced the two were separating.
Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner are separating pic.twitter.com/4WVZxfTMmo
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) August 29, 2016
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) August 29, 2016
A British tabloid reported he’d been in a months-long online relationship with a 15-year-old girl.
This car crash wasn’t fun to look at anymore. “Anthony Weiner is gross,” wrote Chris Cillizza at The Fix. “Let’s stop paying attention to him.”
Talk turned to whether Weiner’s sex scandals were psychosomatic.
“It’s about people who use intense fantasy to escape,” Robert Weiss, a sex and tech addiction expert for Elements Behavioral Health addiction treatment centers, told The Fix, speaking about politicians who cheat in broad terms.
We desperately wanted to be done with Weiner. But Weiner wasn’t done with us.
The FBI seized his computer to investigate whether he had sent inappropriate photos or videos to a minor. And on that computer, they found something else: emails Clinton sent and received using a private server while secretary of state.
Eleven days before the presidential election, Weiner’s sexting turned into a political bomb for Democrats. Then-FBI Director James B. Comey told Congress the FBI had found new Clinton emails in an unrelated investigation.
“I can’t consider for a second whose political fortunes will be affected in that way,” Comey would testify to Congress months later.
Clinton lost the election. She’d later come to the conclusion that Anthony Weiner’s sexual desires — and the FBI’s decision to tell
Congress the world about her previously undiscovered secretary of state emails sitting on a server with Weiner’s sexts — were a big reason she lost.
Of course it was Weiner. It was always going to be Weiner. It was inevitable that this guy we wanted nothing more of would play a starring role in one of the biggest news stories of the biggest presidential elections in recent memory.
Arguably, Weiner is STILL haunting us. Comey testified to Congress on May 3 that Abedin had “forwarded hundreds and thousands” of Clinton emails to her husband, which is one reason the FBI director decided to alert Congress so close to the election. Turns out there were far fewer emails on Weiner’s computer, the FBI announced on May 9.
That evening, Trump fired Comey (though he didn’t originally say it was because of Comey’s misstatements, it was a good excuse to pull the trigger). And now Trump is living with the consequences of that decision, which in a weird way has its roots in one of the weirdest political stories of the social media age.
That story is guffaw-worthy. Cynical. Just plain puzzling. Gross. Criminal. And somehow totally impactful.