July 24, 2013

NYT Editorial Calling for Weiner to Quit Mayor’s Race Ignores the Paper’s Enabling Role

In a Tuesday evening editorial, the New York Times called for former Democratic Congressman and current New York City mayoral candidate to withdraw from the race. What the Times failed to acknowledge — and should have — is the critical role it played in enabling his still-alive comeback attempt from the 2011 sexting scandal which led to his congressional resignation.

On April 10, the Times published an 8,000-plus word item by Jonathan Van Meter which appeared in its April 14 Sunday magazine. Its only conceivable purpose was to hasten Weiner’s political rehabilitation. At the time, Kyle Drennen at NewsBusters noted that it was dutifully “touted” on the NBC, CBS, and ABC morning shows. It doesn’t take long during a re-read of that Times piece to arrive at several bitterly ironic passages, as will be seen after the jump.

Warning: In current context, many readers will find certain of these passages utterly nauseating, inadvertently gut-splitting funny, or both (bolds are mine):

Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin’s Post-Scandal Playbook

… They present as two people who have painstakingly pieced their private life back together: they cook dinner and watch TV and have friends and family over to their spacious prewar apartment for special occasions. They seem to be functioning again as a couple, even unselfconsciously bickering in front of the waiter. But what they do not yet have a handle on is their public life.

… The focus of the poll (conducted by Weiner to test the feasibility of a mayoral run), (former Barack Obama pollster David) Binder says, was the question “Are voters willing to give him a second chance or not, regardless of what race or what contest?” And the answer? “There was this sense of ‘Yeah, he made a mistake. Let’s give him a second chance. But there are conditions on that, and there are a couple of things we’re going to want to know: What have you been doing since this incident occurred? Did you learn anything from this mistake? How did you deal with it?’ They want to know that they’ve put it behind them.”

… it’s clear that the idea of talking about the scandal and its aftermath appeals to them on a personal level too. “We have been in a defensive crouch for so long,” Weiner said. “We are ready to clear the decks on this thing.” Their lives have become too small, too circumscribed, too claustrophobic for a couple accustomed to public life.

… Weiner and Abedin have realized, it seems, that the only way out is through.

… Weiner said this period (since his resignation) has been a respite for both of them. “Whatever Hillary does next, who knows how long it’s going to last, and whatever I do next. . . .” He trailed off. “We kind of have the feeling that we’re on this reprieve. It’s calm. Let’s enjoy it while we can.”

… Naturally, being in therapy has also forced him to do a lot of thinking about his family.

… How Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin stayed together through Weinergate is, like most negotiations between couples, deeply complicated and in some ways unknowable. “If there’s anyone who’s genetically predisposed to be able to sustain the onslaught that came from without, it’s these two,” (brother) Jason Weiner says.

… “I love Huma a great deal,” he said. “I live with a lot of guilt about what I put her through. She’s this amazing woman who did nothing wrong, who, to some degree, has people staring at her now on the subway because of what an idiot her husband was. And I feel bad about that. A lot.

… But nearly everyone who cares about Weiner says that pugilistic political persona long ago bled into his personal life and made him “hard to take,” as his brother Jason puts it. “I wouldn’t stand for other people saying this about him, but there was definitely a douchiness about him that I just don’t really see anymore.” His family agrees that the post-scandal Weiner, the diaper-changing Weiner, is far more likable.

I don’t think so, people.

Wow, was the Times ever played, and it clearly never occurred to Van Meter or any of the editors that they were being played.

The Times Magazine story only used a form of “Democrat” one time in reference to “a Democratic National Committee retreat on Martha’s Vineyard in August 2001,” and never directly tagged Weiner as a Democrat.

Weiner admitted yesterday that he resumed sexting and continued doing so until either November or January (the related AP report I referred to in yesterday’s NewsBusters post says it was November in one place, and six months beginning last July in another. Weiner also acknowledged staying in communication (but supposedly not sexting) with a sexting partner until April. That communication may not have ended until after the Times Magazine piece appeared.

The paper’s editorial should have owned up to the paper’s horrid judgment and and its apparent failure to search for hints of a relapse. With others, it may have seemed unthinkable, but given how difficult it was to drag the truth out of him, bit by painful bit, in 2011, the possibility should not have been ignored. Apparently the paper’s desire for an ultraliberal, borderline-celebrity mayor who might somehow erase and even reverse the legacy of legendarily effective mayor Rudy Giuliani overran whatever remains of its news acumen.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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