Former Congressman Anthony Weiner has been sentenced to prison. He was once thought to be a “rising star in the Democratic Party,” and he is the husband of Huma Abedin, (divorce pending). Abedin, it is important to observe, has for years been part of the inner circle around Hillary Rodham Clinton.
On May 19, pursuant to a plea bargain, Weiner pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of of Manhattan to one charge of transferring obscene material to a minor. On September 25 he learned his sentence: 21 months. He will also be a registered sex offender for the remainder of his life.
At the sentencing hearing Judge Denise Cote said that she hopes this will serve as a deterrent for others. “Because of the defendant’s notoriety, there is intense interest in this case. This is an opportunity to make a statement that can protect other minors.”
That opportunity arose from the latest in the three ‘sexting’ scandals that have crashed around Weiner since May 2011. At that time, Weiner, a congressman representing New York’s 9th District, that is, a good chunk of Brooklyn, (Chuck Schumer had preceded him in that post) used his twitter account to send a photo of his penis to a 21 year old college student.
A second round of analogous reports derailed his 2013 campaign for mayor, and a third round, the one involving a 15 year old recipient of such texts, was the one that has finally led to prison.
Right Wing View
Conservatives are using the demise of Weiner as a bludgeon in several of their causes. Pundit Ann Coulter almost immediately tweeted out some advice to him, “To impress your new shower buddies, definitely side w/ Kaepernick, but under no circumstances should you take a knee.” That was a sodomy-in-prison joke of course, as well as a reference to Colin Rand Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback (now a free agent) who started the practice of declining to stand while the American national anthem was being played.
A more common connection is that drawn by a less well known twitterer, “Rock Princess 818,” who says, “A pedophile was two degrees of separation from Hilary Clinton and she was oblivious. As sick as it gets.”
During the campaign, some on the right actually thought media attention to Weiner’s sexting issues was helping Clinton and thus hurting Trump. A writer at RedState.com put the theory this way, “It is almost like this was all staged to try to create sympathy for Human Abedin and divert attention from her past Islamist activities.”
Left Wing View
Left of center authors have sometimes told the story of Weiner’s fall as a tragedy: a man who could have been great, undone by a fatal flaw, his compulsion to expose himself. A documentary film took that point of view.
The movie, Weiner, directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, portrayed Weiner’s efforts at a political comeback (after the first round of scandal had forced him out of Congress). His comeback was to consist of winning the 2013 campaign for mayor of New York City. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. As mentioned above, his second-round sexting scandal kicked in.
Still, when not treating of the sexting issue, the documentary is sympathetic to Weiner as a candidate. One reviewer said that it portrayed him as remarkable in his “command of the issues and steadfast commitment to progressive beliefs,” capable of surprising success in winning over crowds.
Sympathetic portrayals sometimes go further than that. Not only is Weiner’s fall tragic, but it is part of what is to some a far greater tragedy, Secretary Hillary Clinton’s failure to achieve the Presidency. Weiner’s sexting cause the FBI to seize Weiner’s laptop during the Presidential campaign of 2016. The FBI then looked through the laptop and discovered that it contained Abedin emails. The then director of the FBI, James Comey, announced in October 2016 that the FBI was reviving the investigation of Hillary Clinton in connection with the direction and retention of her emails as Secretary of State, because some of what was on Weiner’s laptop appeared “to be pertinent.”
That announcement in turn (so runs the story) killed the momentum Clinton had by then begun to develop in the campaign, and led to the election of Donald Trump.