Shane BarnhillFriday,26 July 2013

The Snap:

Earlier this week, New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner faced the media alongside his wife, Huma Abedin, to address revelations of sexually explicit text messages that he sent to an unidentified woman. Weiner, you may recall, resigned from Congress back in 2011 after his love of sexting first surfaced. The surprising information in this latest scandal is that Weiner’s activity supposedly took place not only after his resignation, but also after Abedin gave birth to the couple’s son. And now fresh reports have surfaced indicating that Weiner was sexting with other women during this post-resignation timeframe, including 22-year-old Sydney Leathers.

The Download:

Since his press conference, Weiner has rebuffed multiple calls to drop out of the mayoral race. This is not surprising. Weiner had been leading in the polls (emphasis on “had been“) before this new scandal, and probably still figures that he has a shot at convincing New Yorkers to give him a third chance. It should surprise no one that a career politician may have an oversized ego preventing him from seeing the writing on the wall.

But what should surprise us all is the skewering of Abedin in opinion columns and blogs across the nation. A headline in Fox “News” screams that Abedin is “self-serving,” while Lisa Bloom of CNN admonishes her further, stating, “We have the right to say that we will not enable this anymore; we will not endorse it; we will not bless it just because it is her ‘choice.'” Even Maureen Callahan of the New York Post (okay, maybe I shouldn’t infer that the Post is a respectable publication, but still), suggests that Abedin may have “a pathological need to be publicly humiliated.”

At best, these criticisms are misguided attempts to hold Abedin to some arbitrary higher standard as a role model for young women. At worst, they’re pure bullshit.

And while I’m cognizant of the fact that the viewpoints which I’m calling out above are those of female writers, and that I’m a man, I don’t think that gender-based perceptions of Huma Abedin’s supposed “correct” way of handing her husband’s infidelity are the real issue here. Instead, the issue that troubles me most is our society’s lack of appreciation for nuance in complex situations, or regarding complex issues.

The intertwined love and sex lives of Weiner and Abedin are undoubtedly complex, as Justin Kownacki alludes to in the embedded tweet above. Furthermore, Abedin’s decision to not only stand by Weiner during his latest political meltdown, but to also speak on his behalf during Tuesday’s press conference, surely reflects a set of complicated underlying motives for Abedin.

While detractors want to paint her as a “victim” who is unwilling to resist a role that has been assigned to her by Weiner’s PR team, the more likely reality is that Abedin’s actions are part of a calculated plan that she negotiated — from a position of power — with Anthony Weiner. Whether Abedin’s motives are political, monetary, familial or some combination is known only to her, Weiner and a small trusted circle.

But the media has no use for such a nuanced arrangement, because shades of grey don’t sell unless they’re part of a sex novel. Abortion is either an unrestricted choice or a damning sin. Edward Snowden is either a hero or a traitor. Drugs should either be completely legalized or totally outlawed. Black and white viewpoints sell, and increasingly, we’re buying them wholesale.

Perhaps I should retract my statement above then that “what should surprise us all is the skewering of Aubedin in opinion columns and blogs.” But I’ll add that we should all pause for a moment and reflect on another woman who decided to publicly support her husband despite his repeated embarrassing infidelities: Hillary Clinton. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, I, like many, felt that Hillary should have sealed Bill Clinton’s fall with a public dissolution of their marriage. But Ms. Clinton’s appreciation for the long view and its nuanced political requirements has her positioned, 15 years later, with a realistic shot of becoming the first female President of the United States.

So, rather than trying to force Abedin to act in accordance with our own world views, we should consider that she may be either executing a page out of her boss’ playbook, or simply striving for a version of happiness that we don’t fully understand, because it’s not our own. It’s sure as hell not black and white, and any attempts to paint the Abedin/Weiner situation that way are coloring it in the wrong light.

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Hat Tips:

The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNN, New York Post, Fox NewsImage Credit: Flickr


  1. […] “Whether Abedin’s motives are political, monetary, familial or some combination is known only to her, Weiner and a small trusted circle. But the media has no use for such a nuanced arrangement.” Read more on The Snap Download… […]

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