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The Issue: Political sex scandals

By MARCELLA KREITER, United Press International   |   July 28, 2013 at 5:08 AM   |   Comments

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The frivolity of summer was slipping away: Fears were growing National Security Agency surveillance program was nipping at civil liberties, unrest was roiling the black community following the Zimmerman verdict in Florida and Republicans and Democrats were again sniping over the federal budget and debt ceiling.

And then came Anthony Weiner, the former New York congressman forced to resign for texting pictures of his privates to young women. Weiner was attempting a political comeback by running for mayor of New York.

And he was leading, too.

That is until midweek when it turned out he hadn't stopped sexting when he left Congress in 2011. In fact, he was still sending selfies as recently as last summer.

"What I did was wrong," Weiner told a news conference, pledging the "behavior is behind me."

Maybe.

Sex scandals in politics are nothing new.

In the country's infancy, President Andrew Jackson endured taunts about his wife, Rachel Donelson, whose first husband neglected to file the promised divorce papers. More recently: the Kennedys' escapades at the White House with Marilyn Monroe and Judith Exner, who claimed affairs with not only John Kennedy but with Mafia figures as well; disgraced Illinois Rep. Mel Reynolds, who served jail time because of his penchant for underage girls, and former Idaho Rep. Larry Craig, who was convicted of solicitation after a Minneapolis airport bathroom encounter.

European countries snicker at U.S. discomfiture when it comes to such revelations.

This time the unfortunate behavior is coupled with an unfortunate pronunciation of the politician's last name (not to mention the revelation came during National Hot Dog Week).

Weiner, who used the sexting pseudonym Carlos Danger, tried to convince everyone last week's revelations by TheDirty.com were nothing new.

"I said there were more things out there," Weiner said he had told reporters when he announced his candidacy. He said some of the things posted by The Dirty were true and some were not, but he wasn't going to get into specifics.

Both he and wife Huma Abedin indicated they thought the issue was something that should be considered within the confines of their marriage and not something open for public debate. Weiner said essentially that since his wife has forgiven him, the public should, too.

"I accept responsibility for the conversations and exchanging inappropriate things. That is behind me," Weiner said.

Weiner has denied he's a virtual sex addict but has described his actions as a compulsion. Both he and Abedin said they were dealing with it in therapy.

The number of women Weiner sexted stood at 13 -- three of them after he left Congress.

Sydney Leathers, who outed Weiner on The Dirty, told "Inside Edition" Weiner told her he loved her and she "cared about him a lot."

Now, though, the 23-year-old Indiana woman said she's disgusted by Weiner's behavior and urged him to stop embarrassing his wife.

"It makes me feel physically ill. I've barely been able to eat since all of this happened," Leather said. "I feel sick about it. I'm disgusted by him. He's not who I thought he was."

She also compared herself to the character Zoe on "House of Cards" who begins an affair with the congressman to get tips on news stories.

The Huffington Post quoted Leathers' friend Nik Richie, who operates The Dirty, as saying Weiner and Leathers had phone sex.

Despite a precipitous drop in public opinion polls -- from 52 percent favorability rating in June to 30 percent following the revelations, a WNBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll indicated -- Weiner was refusing to drop out of the Sept. 10 mayoral primary. His unfavorability rating shot to 55 percent from 36 and his lead in the Democratic primary over Christine Quinn went from 25 percent versus 20 percent to 16 percent versus 25 percent.

"These new revelations have cost Anthony Weiner the lead in the Democratic field," Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, told WNBC, New York. "His negatives are at an all-time high."

The poll of 551 registered Democrats also indicated 45 percent of New Yorkers don't think Weiner has the character to be mayor. The margin of error was pegged at 4.2 percentage points.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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