When Anthony Weiner derailed his political career the first time, back in 2011, his wife Huma Abedin was greeted with an outpouring of sympathy. The longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, who pointedly declined to stand by her husband's side as he admitted to tweeting photos of his crotch to random women on the internet, was universally seen as a victim of her husband's sexual shenanigans. The only question surrounding the glamorous and whip-smart Abedin was: What on earth is she doing with him?
The second time around has been quite different. This week, Abedin swooped down to try and rescue Weiner's campaign for mayor of New York City, after it emerged that Weiner continued to have raunchy online relationships with women after he resigned from Congress in disgrace. Now the questions about Abedin abound, including whether she should bear some responsibility for inflicting Weiner's sordid travails on the public. Once seen as a major asset to Weiner's campaign, Abedin is now being depicted as a calculating accomplice.
David Weigel at Slate has little sympathy for the wife of the scandal-ridden former congressman. "Please spare us," writes Weigel. "Nobody forced Abedin to go along with the stories that Weiner had fallen from grace in 2011 and gone on to be a devoted, chastened husband."
Media strategist Adam Weiss drives the Abedin backlash one step further, comparing Abedin to her former boss (who also dealt with her fair share of spousal sex scandals). "They are both that power-hungry that she stands there and she accepts the absolute disgracefulness of serial cheating," Weiss tells the New York Post. "Huma comes from the Clinton school of forgiveness — power is more important than dignity."
Echoing the Hillary comparisons, Jennifer Seniors at New York writes, "Like her boss, she [Abedin] fell in love with a narcissist, and like her boss, she has elected to participate in his delusions." In fact, Hillary standing by Bill may have been more understandable, since he was already president, whereas Weiner didn't need to throw his hat back into the political ring. It made sense "for Huma to stand by him, sure," says Seniors. "But to enable his grandiosity? No."
Still, while the Huma pile-on seems never-ending, Allison P. Davis at New York actually finds her more likeable after her awkward Wednesday press conference with Weiner. Abedin looked "rattled….thin, frumpy, wan," says Davis. "Gone was the bulletproof wife — and in her place was a much more compelling, more recognizably real-life Abedin." Unlike the perfectly strong and composed spouse seen in Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, and The New York Times Magazine, "this is a woman I can stand behind," adds Davis.
Unfortunately, the mix of sympathy, criticism, shock, and confusion towards Abedin's decision to stay with her husband on the campaign trail has produced a cornucopia of impossible-to-follow advice, says Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel. According to the media, "Huma must leave him and not leave him. Run for mayor of New York City and disappear from the public eye to focus on patching up their marriage."
Perhaps, the best option for Abedin is to run off with her former boss and "found the world's first country consisting only of kickass women who are leery of men due to unfortunate past experiences," suggests Ryan. There, maybe Abedin could run for office with Weiner supporting her from the sidelines.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- What political elites don't understand about Scotland's push for independence
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- Obama knows he can't really 'defeat' ISIS. Americans need to wake up to that reality, too.
- Is 'feminism' just another word for 'liberalism'?
- The U.S. dollar has been strengthening for 3 straight years! (That's not good news.)
Subscribe to the Week