Weiner confirms ‘There’s no such thing as bad press’
It seems Anthony Weiner is back, and running for mayor of New York. This, after tweeting pictures of his… well…
In 2011 Weiner’s political career imploded after the six-term congressman lied about, then admitted to, all manner of virtual carryings on. During a tearful press conference, a disgraced Weiner confirmed his digital philandering and resigned.
In the past, such a disgraced leader would have left the limelight for good, either from shame or because the electorate demanded it. But Weiner is back, and better than ever. Rebranded as a phoenix, rising from the ashes of his self-immolation, it would appear that Weiner is a martyr now — or something like it — a far cry from the man we chased with tar and feathers two years ago.
While it’s strange Weiner is back, the comfort he’s enjoying is even stranger. With no one backing him, he is left untethered. And with no bulky campaign machinery weighing him down, Weiner seems more nimble than his counterparts. The New York Times wrote of him as an easy-going maverick during his first debate, using the opportunity to set himself apart from his opponents. It’s clear Weiner is enjoying the spotlight that, two years ago, incinerated him.
The question is, would Weiner be getting this kind of attention if it weren’t for the scandal — or better yet, if it weren’t for his audacity to run despite it? (For those not based in the Empire State, can you name one other New York mayoral candidate?) Now I’m all for second chances, but I keep asking myself, how did we get here?
Despite our imagined Victorian sensibilities, Americans love dragging public figures through the mud while our thrice-divorced, opiate-addled pundits scream about family values. But we don’t vote for them again. Well, sometimes we do (looking at you and your Argentinian vacation, Mark Sanford.) So what does Weiner’s redemption say about American voters?
Is two years enough time to forget? Do we not care about the personal lives of our politicians anymore? Do we just think it’s kind of funny? Maybe it’s all of the above. Maybe we just like him. He’s a tireless campaigner, shaking hands and kissing babies while unapologetically rocking the boat. He’s charismatic and clever, but is that enough to convince a city of 8 million to hear you out?
I was living in Brooklyn when his scandal originally broke, and remember the New York Post’s ribald headlines (“Weiner to Endure Rough Sex Probe”? Really guys?) The press went wild, and now we’re back for round two. Only this time we’re not shaming someone out of office, we’re pushing him into it. It might be this has actually helped Weiner’s career, despite the odds. It’s certainly helped his name recognition.
Whenever a scandal like this breaks, the public blames the press for reporting it, and the press blames the public for demanding it. It’s a tired song and dance, but in this case, if we’re not careful, we might keep talking about Weiner until he’s elected.
So who’s to blame? Everyone’s, I guess. Yet here I am writing about it, just like the rest of the ouroboros journalists.
Derek Prall is the assistant editor at American City & County magazine