The fetching columnist, political commentator & former girlfriend explains why she defended Congressman Weiner when this scandal first broke, and explores the depths of his betrayal & lack of respect for women in general.
Anthony Weiner’s former girlfriend, Kirsten Powers, defended him on TV to millions of people after he insisted to her that he didn’t send lewd photos on Twitter. Now she takes him to task for his rampant misogyny—and says he must resign immediately.
Anthony Weiner lied to the country about his sexual misconduct online. He also lied to me.
I had been defending him, based on what he told me, but no more. Weiner must resign from Congress immediately.
This has not been my previous position during the scandal, but as I have recovered from the shock of seeing an old friend’s life unravel and have had time to get my mind around the extensive and sociopathic lying in which he engaged, there seems to be no other choice than for him to step aside and stop hurting his family, friends, and the Democratic Party. As more information trickles outabout his online behavior with women, it has also become clear that he does not have the character to be in a position of leadership because of his misogynist view of women and predatory behavior.
Full disclosure: I briefly dated Anthony almost a decade ago after meeting him at a postcampaign party for the 2002 New York gubernatorial race, during which I had worked as Andrew Cuomo’s press secretary. The relationship didn’t last, but we stayed friends. While we were dating, he traveled with my family to Costa Rica for Christmas, and years later I spent Thanksgiving with his when I was stranded in New York City because of work. He was a strong support when my father died suddenly from a heart attack seven years ago. When a relationship I had been hopeful about ended in 2006, he cleared his calendar to spend a Saturday with me and reassure me about my decision. We only dated for three months, and he was for the most part a doting boyfriend and my family was very fond of him.
In the past few years, we didn’t see each other or communicate much, though when my husband’s parents were recently trapped in Egypt during the revolution, he helped to connect me to his wife, Huma, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to facilitate their getting out.
In short, he was a friend whom I cared for very much, even if I thought he had issues he needed to deal with. It was because of this friendship that I believed him when he told me last week that he had done nothing wrong. In an email to me he wrote: “Why not to call the cops: Personal account, no federal case, we don’t know yet what they got, I didn’t send it, statements on sat, sun, monday, the girl said she doesn’t know me, I don’t know her. The people I follow are all people who ask. We’ve hired a law firm but not to protect me, to put together the team to figure out how we prevent and maybe civil or criminal next steps. We don’t know where this photo came from. We have theories. Until we know for sure we open up legal hornets nest if we say.”
He knew I was going on the show Hannity, where I would use this false information to defend him in front of millions of people. I did, and I regret it. The previous day I had reluctantly done an interview with the New York Post at his request to talk about what kind of boyfriend he was. In that story I didn’t address the controversy but talked about my experiences with him. Nonetheless, my friends were furious when the real information came out and they realized he had allowed me to become involved in his sordid controversy. I just felt sorry for him and his wife.
In an interview with Greta Van Susteren the evening of Weiner’s tearful press conference, I told her I didn’t believe he needed to resign because his behavior was not related to his official capacity and that this was between him and his wife and, ultimately, the voters. Yes, he lied, I acknowledged, but everyone lies in sex scandals.
This is my general view of sex scandals. But there is lying and then there is what Weiner did. Due to nonstop meetings, I had not had time to watch his media blitz prior to my Greta interview and was slack-jawed when I saw clips of him the next day sneering and pointing fingers at other people for what he knew he had done. I am of the general view that politicians are not the most honest group of people, but, even using that very low standard, what I saw in those interviews was deeply disturbing. There is no way anyone can ever believe anything Weiner says again after that. In fact, I highly doubt that what he said in his press conference is even true.
Narcissism doesn’t begin to describe this kind of behavior. It seems there was nobody he didn’t lie to. The New York Times reported this morning that he told donors a week ago that the scandal was the result of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” and that “everything [would] be fine.” We also learned after his press conference that he coached a former porn star with whom he had communicated online on how to lie to the media.
But even if I could see past the lying and extreme narcissism that is noteworthy even by Washington standards, there is the issue of his attitude toward women. What has emerged is a picture of a predator trolling the Internet for women—some half his age—with which to engage in cybersex. We know only about the women who were responsive to his overtures. The odds are very high that he struck out with many, and other women were victim to his unsolicited sex talk. Women should be able to “friend” a married—or unmarried—congressman on Facebook or follow him on Twitter without fear of being the recipient of lewd talk or behavior. Just because a woman “likes” your video on Facebook doesn’t mean you can send her a picture of your penis. This is textbook sexual harassment. It may not be illegal, but it’s definitely unethical. He is in a position of influence, and many women—especially a 21-year-old—would be afraid to report a congressman doing that to them because he holds so much power. Also, he claims none of the women he contacted were underage, but how could he possibly know that?
By far the most disturbing information that we have been privy to—there is, no doubt, more out there that we don’t know—is the transcript of a nine-month “sexting” relationship Weiner had with a Las Vegas blackjack dealer. Radar Online posted the transcript, and it is rife with misogyny and distorted views about women. In referring to oral sex, Wiener tells her, “You will gag on me before you c** with me in you” and “[I’m] thinking about gagging your hot mouth with my c***.” This is not about sex. It’s about dominating and inflicting physical pain on a woman, a fantasy the hard-core porn industry makes billions of dollars on selling to men. You don’t want to gag a woman with your penis unless you have some serious issues with the way you see women.
What has emerged is a picture of a predator trolling the Internet for women—some half his age—with which to engage in cybersex.
As for his other views of women, he tells her, “I hear liberal girls are very, uh, accommodating of other[s],” playing on a bogus stereotype that politically liberal women are promiscuous. When he asks the woman, who is Jewish, “You give good h**d?” and she says yes, he exclaims: “Wow a Jewish girl who sucks c***! this thing is ready to do damage.”
A whisper campaign has started in New York that Weiner’s wife was partly to blame for what happened. “You know, she does travel a lot” is what one New York political operative told me they have heard from multiple reporters. So now we have the “blame the woman” campaign even though what Weiner did had zero to do with sexual satisfaction and everything to do with his own mental issues and attitude toward women. And, by the way, plenty of men have wives who travel and they don’t start preying on women on the Internet and sending pictures of their private parts.
Weiner is facing an ethics committee investigation, and it is possible that the committee could issue subpoenas for the women involved in the scandal. This means the scandal is going to continue to drag the Democratic Party down especially as new information comes out that he no doubt has not shared.
Despite my disappointment in his behavior and my concerns about his capacity to be in a leadership position, my heart still aches for him and his family. We are all flawed human beings, and this is not about meting out judgment. It’s about having some sort of standard for what the Democratic Party stands for—especially regarding treating women with dignity and respect—and Congressman Weiner has fallen far short of even the low standard to which we generally hold our elected officials. It’s time for him to go.
Kirsten Powers is a columnist for The Daily Beast. She is also a political analyst on Fox News and a writer for the New York Post. She served in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1998 and has worked in New York state and city politics. Her writing has been published in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the New York Observer, Salon.com, Elle magazine,and American Prospect online.