- Errol Louis: Weiner should know New Yorkers hate to be punchline of a national joke
- Louis: Business leaders didn't want him and now they might hound him out of mayoral race
- He says city's big papers want Weiner to drop out, and he has only himself to blame
- Louis: Weiner seems to think he'll be forgiven, but voters will decide on primary day
For all its swagger, New York City -- especially its business establishment -- does not particularly like to be the punchline of a national joke. That is why, for months, corporate leaders have been grumbling with dismay about the possibility of Anthony Weiner becoming mayor.
With the latest revival of the scandal that drove him from Congress, Weiner runs a real risk of being hounded out of the race by New York's business and civic leaders -- the very circle he would need to lead as mayor.
There are 52 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in New York state,
with the vast majority based in the city, including brand names such as Verizon, Citigroup, American Express, Jet Blue and Time Warner (the parent company of CNN). The executives who run these firms expect a mayor cut in their mold -- a serious and energetic manager who will keep the city a safe, clean, comfortable place to do business.
By admitting he has spent years engaged in frivolous, compulsive misconduct -- made worse by repeated lying about his habit -- Weiner, for many real estate barons and corporate titans, utterly failed a crucial test of leadership.
Which is why Weiner has nobody to blame but himself for the waves of condemnation raining down on him from the editorial boards of New York's most powerful newspapers -- the News, the Times and The Wall Street Journal -- which agree on little else but have all decided Weiner should quit the race for mayor.
The latest revelation is that Weiner continued sending obscene messages and photos to a 22-year-old stranger more than a year after resigning from Congress in disgrace over exactly the same behavior in 2011. That was a deal breaker for The New York Times. "He has already disqualified himself," the paper wrote in a blistering editorial,
accusing Weiner of "a familiar but repellent pattern of misleading and evasion."
"He is not fit to lead America's premier city," said the New York Daily News
in a front-page message about the candidate. "Lacking the dignity and discipline that New York deserves in a mayor, Weiner must recognize that his demons have no place in City Hall. Having built his campaign on deception, he has badly damaged the process of selecting the city's next chief executive."
And so on.
Politically, it has seemed for months as if Weiner might be able to survive moral outrage over his weird compulsion to send lewd texts and photos of himself to young women. Recent polls
ranked him first or second in a crowded field of Democrats running for mayor.
The much higher hurdle to overcome is public exasperation over his repeated evasions about what he did and when he did it. In 2011, he went on CNN and other news channels with a preposterous, utterly false claim that sexual messages from his accounts were the work of hackers
, a charge he later admitted was a fabrication.
More recently, Weiner has made repeated, heartfelt claims
that the destructive behavior is behind him, clearly implying the bombshell revelations that drove him from office in 2011 marked the end of his compulsions.
It turns out that Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin
, were playing a game, posing in People magazine with their child and claiming Weiner was on a path to emotional health and solid family life last summer -- at the same time an unrehabilitated Weiner was sending obscene photos and holding extended text chats and phone sex sessions with a 22-year-old stranger.
"Maybe the couple didn't outright lie, but they didn't tell the full truth, either," New York Post noted in an editorial.
All of this leaves Weiner in a damaged position. His half-dozen rivals for mayor have, until now, carefully avoided directly calling attention to his problems with the truth: In at least one public forum, a crowd booed when a candidate referred to the lying.
But the latest revelations, coming less than 50 days before the all-important September 10 Democratic primary, have encouraged candidates to stop pulling punches.
"The sideshows of this election have gotten in the way of the debate we should be having about the future of this city," says one of Weiner's rivals, Bill de Blasio. "Enough is enough."
De Blasio's call is an indirect reference to another candidate -- former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who is running for city comptroller after resigning as governor in the wake of revelations he hired prostitutes. The national media will continue to have an extended field day reporting on the flaws of the candidates for New York's top two political slots.
"The mayor of New York City should be a leader that all the residents of our city, especially our children, can look up to," says Republican candidate John Catsimatidis. "Anthony Weiner should do what is right for his family and our city and drop out of the race for mayor so we can end this soap opera."
That, by all indications is not going to happen. "This behavior is behind me," Weiner said at a hastily called press conference.
Will the voters buy it? We'll find out on primary day, September 10.