Huma Abedin and wronged political wives: few options, hard choices
Scandal-tarred Rep. Anthony Weiner says he and his wife, Huma Abedin, will stay together. She has not spoken publicly. How political wives respond to wrongdoing may affect their husbands' political survival, some analysts say.
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“The image of the loyal wife conveys to the public that the person he has hurt the most has forgiven him first, and you should too,” says Kellyanne Conway, a Republican strategist. “It all depends on the circumstance, really. Unfortunately people have become inured to the cheating political man story.”Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Who is Rep. Anthony Weiner?
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The role of social media in the Weiner scandal – and the fact that the congressman had no physical contact with any of his paramours – adds a new twist to an old sin. In fact, on Monday he seemed to suggest that because he had not had a physical relationship with the women involved, his actions weren’t as bad as if he had. The political world has reacted otherwise. And he and Abedin find themselves the latest in a long line of adulterous politicians and their aggrieved wives.
Standing by a scandal-consumed husband “has to help the offending husband on the margin, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee survival,” says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “And the psychic costs are so high.”
Consider the case of Jenny Sanford. She didn’t do the “stand by your man” routine when her husband, then-Gov. Mark Sanford (R) of South Carolina, admitted to an affair with a woman in Argentina. The Sanfords are now divorced.
“I think it’s much easier for Jenny to move through her normal life than if she had stuck by him,” says Mr. Jillson.
Governor Sanford resisted calls to resign and survived moves toward impeachment, limping to the end of his term.
Weiner rationalizes his decision not to resign by citing the support of his constituents. But it’s an open question whether he can resist the calls to resign from within the Democratic Party, where he faces ostracism if he stays.
One off-shoot of the Weiner scandal, and others that have preceded it, may be a renewed push by both parties to encourage more women to run for office. It’s probably no coincidence that in the case of New York’s 26th Congressional District, both major parties selected women to run last month in the special election for the seat vacated by Rep. Christopher Lee (R). The married Mr. Lee resigned abruptly in February after he was caught sending a shirtless photo of himself to a woman he met online on Craigslist.
IN PICTURES: Ethically challenged congressmen