NEW YORK — When Huma Abedin first started getting media attention, some wondered what this beautiful, ambitious woman with high-fashion sense and a world-class Rolodex saw in Anthony Weiner.
That’s a question New Yorkers might be asking themselves after revelations that Weiner, now a candidate for mayor of New York, didn’t immediately give up his habit of sending sexual pictures and messages to female fans after his humiliating resignation from Congress in 2011.
Abedin herself took a shot at an answer in an awkward joint news conference Tuesday, saying she had forgiven her husband and felt his marital indiscretions were “between us.” She offered an even more basic explanation in a first-person essay in Harper’s Bazaar due on newsstands in September.
“Quite simply, I love my husband, I love my city, and I believe in what he wants to do for the people of New York,” she wrote.
Will that be enough to satisfy a bewildered public? Maybe not. But people who go searching for a deeper motive are almost certain to get it wrong.
“None of us know what’s going on with that couple now,” said Stephen Medvic, an associate professor of government at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania and author of the book, “In Defense of Politicians.”
“She made a statement,” he said. “Let’s leave it at that. Let’s not try to put into somebody’s mind what’s not there.”
In an email sent to campaign supporters Tuesday, Weiner tried to explain his actions.
“Sending these embarrassing messages to women online, whom I never met, was a personal failing that was hurtful to my wife and a part of my life that Huma and I have put behind us. These things I did, as you have read in the papers, didn’t happen once. It was a terrible mistake that I unfortunately returned to during a rough time in our marriage,” he wrote.
Abedin now seems to be trying to shake off a cloud of humiliation, which seems an unlikely place for someone whose reputation as a top aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton was based on an ability to navigate the chaos of presidential campaigns and global diplomatic trips with the poise of Grace Kelly.
When her new husband’s political career disintegrated in 2011 just as she was about to have a child, Abedin couldn’t escape the obvious comparisons with her mentor, Clinton, who shoved her own husband’s scandals aside to become a massive figure in American politics.
Stephanie Coontz, who wrote “Marriage: A History” and teaches family studies at Evergreen State University in Olympia, Wash., said it’s a shame that her response to her husband’s behavior would be a subject of attention at all.
“Everyone is second-guessing the woman’s decision,” she said. “You saw it with Hillary Clinton. ‘Oh, she’s manipulative. She’s power-hungry.’ We do this instead of recognize that marriage and love are complex.
“Someday, it’ll be a man standing there ashen-faced, and we’ll say, ‘Oh my God,’ because his masculinity will be called into question,” she said. “But things happen in marriages. Couples find a way to deal or they don’t. We don’t need more reality shows!”