They say, sometimes you can’t make this up.
Anthony Weiner, the leading candidate for mayor of New York City, apparently took the online identity of "Carlos Danger" and sent lewd pictures of himself last summer to a 22-year-old woman. The woman alleges the two engaged in an illicit relationship from July to November, when the two exchanged explicit sexual banter and more lewd pictures on the social networking site Formspring. This is according to The Dirty, a tawdry nightlife website run by a man called “Nik Richie,” and BuzzFeed, a news site that captures stories going viral.
The timing of the allegations, as well as Mr. Weiner’s evasive explanations Tuesday, have opened another opera of political scandal, a now familiar drama of siren songs and vaunting ambition, the pressing fury of reporters, and a carefully orchestrated verbal game of apologies and vague denials.
"While some things that have been posted today are true and some are not, there is no question that what I did was wrong," Weiner said at a packed and camera-clicking news conference late Tuesday afternoon. “This behavior is behind me."
Last summer’s alleged online dalliance, of course, would be just a year after Weiner was forced from Congress – also for sending lewd pictures to young women on social networking sites. In May, 2011, he first denied he had sent any pictures – his Twitter account had been hacked, he said.
When he could no longer sustain his denials, however, he admitted he had lied, resigning the New York congressional seat he had won seven times, each with a majority of not less than 59 percent. Weiner also announced he would enter professional treatment – another leitmotif of scandal.
Yet two years after his humiliating downfall, Weiner crafted a startling return, announcing in May a run for the city's top office – a position to which he had long aspired. He was leading or near the top of most polls when the sequel to the 2011 scandal opened Tuesday.
Huma Abedin, a protégé and close confidant of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former US secretary of State and potential Democratic nominee for president in 2016 – not to mention a veteran of the kind of drama that played out Tuesday – stood by her husband.
"Anthony's made some horrible mistakes, both before he resigned from Congress, and after," said a visibly nervous Ms. Abedin at Tuesday's new conference at Gay Men’s Health Crisis headquarters in Manhattan. "But I do very strongly believe that that is between us, and our marriage. We discussed all of this before Anthony decided he would run for mayor. So really what I want to say is, I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward."
Again admitting her husband's dalliances continued after his resignation from Congress, Abedin, who was pregnant with their first child during the 2011 scandal, said their marriage has "had its ups and its downs."
"It took a lot of work, and a whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony," she said. "It was not an easy choice, in any way, but I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage. That was a decision I made for me, for our son, and for our family."
Yet the 22-year-old woman's further allegations could provide an obstacle to the young power-couple's political ambitions. Weiner allegedly suggested in a Formspring chat that he would try to get her an apartment at a specific address in Chicago.
The chat also suggests he would look into a job for her at Politico. "but do me a solid. can you hard delete all our chats here," Weiner allegedly said.
Less than 24 hours after the scandal broke Tuesday, Weiner has given no indication he will withdraw from the mayoral contest. "With 49 days left until primary day, I'm surprised that more things didn't come out sooner," he said.
"I want to bring my vision to the people of the city of New York," he continued. "I hope they're willing to still continue to give me a second chance, and I hope that they realize in many ways what happened today was something that frankly had happened before, but it doesn't represent all that much that is new."
A host of New York-based publications have excoriated the former congressman, however, and calls for Weiner to leave the race – and even public life altogether – are beginning to mount.
"At some point, the full story of Anthony Weiner and his sexual relationships and texting habits will finally be told," said an editorial in The New York Times. "In the meantime, the serially evasive Mr. Weiner should take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye, away from cameras, off the Web and out of the race for mayor of New York City."
[Editor's note: The original version of this story did not have the correct spelling for Huma Abedin.]