Skip to main content

Weiner: Hate media? Love me

By Azi Paybarah, Special to CNN
August 15, 2013 -- Updated 1557 GMT (2357 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Azi Paybarah: Weiner falling in polls but still draws most attention; trying to leverage that
  • He says Weiner slamming press, using media criticism to show he's ready to be NY mayor
  • He says media criticism isn't over old details of sexting but new revelations Weiner kept doing it
  • Paybarah: With primary looming, painting himself as independent may be his best shot

Editor's note: Azi Paybarah is a senior writer at Capital New York, where he writes the Daily Briefing e-mail. He was recently named one of the state's top political reporters by the Washington Post and is a frequent commentator on WNYC Public Radio and New York 1 News.

(CNN) -- When the doors opened onto WABC's New York studios after the televised Democratic mayoral debate Tuesday night, reporters rushed in to surround two people. The first was Public Advocate Bill de Blasio -- in first place, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier in the day.

But the larger crowd was surrounding Anthony Weiner, the former congressman who is polling in fourth place and who spent much of the night being ignored by his rivals.

Weiner may have turned his once-promising campaign into a disaster with the recent fresh crop of sexting revelations, but he has not ceased being the star of the campaign, much to his rivals' chagrin.

Azi Paybarah
Azi Paybarah

Weiner is now reaching for a silver lining from the scandal that has cost him dearly in the polls and sealed off whatever long-shot chances he had at victory. He's taking all the unflattering, pun-filled stories about him and saying "that's what it's like to be mayor." He's turning his unflattering press into evidence of his mettle. So, the more fights with the media, the more chances he has to say he's independent, he's fighting, he's ready for City Hall.

Last week, he mocked a British reporter's accent during an impromptu interview outside a public housing building where he was campaigning. Their exchange ended with him giving an unsolicited weather report to viewers in Britain. ("It's gonna be raining, cloudy and gray. So do what you can, guys," he said.)

While being mayor of New York is indeed akin to being in the eye of a media storm, what's happening to candidate Weiner is different.

Opinion: Hey Weiner, New York doesn't like to look stupid

He omitted a key detail in the redemption story that he brought to the race: Weiner continued sexting after resigning from Congress and tearfully telling the public how much pain it had caused his wife and those close to him. That is what is at the heart of the criticism. It's not the newness of the details but rather the newness of the facts.

But for a candidate who is less than a month away from the primary, there is little to do but continue. He has a reputation to salvage, issues to push and campaign money to spend. So, given the circumstances, the bad-news-is-proof-I'm-ready argument may be Weiner's only argument.

And so, in a live interview with BuzzFeed Editor Ben Smith on Monday, Weiner fielded questions about his sexting scandal and the role his wife may play in an expected Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, and he accused the New York Times of "never" liking him, because of his independence. (In 2008, after an unflattering story about his frequent staff changes, Weiner told me the Times had become "tabloidy.")

Weiner remaining in race for mayor
Weiner: 'What I've done has hurt' Abedin
Christine Quinn on Anthony Weiner

Hours before Tuesday's debate, Weiner's campaign released a video showing the candidate happily announcing that he doesn't care what the New York Post or Daily News say about him, because he's so independent from them.

When Weiner launched his campaign in late April, it was viewed largely as an effort to rehabilitate his image after his 2011 scandal and resignation from Congress. Nobody wants the last words on this career to be "sex scandal," "resignation" or "disgrace." But Weiner has lost ground since his scandal resurfaced; just last month, polls had him leading the Democratic field.

Opinion: Will 'sexters' give Weiner a pass?

On Tuesday night, Weiner tried painting the rivals on stage with him as all coming from the same political establishment that has long governed New York.

About halfway through the debate, Weiner said, "My fellow New Yorkers, this is the problem," referring to his rivals, who had just been arguing with one another on stage. "You know they all come from basically the same place; they've been part of municipal government for decades now. They've all been part of it: a comptroller, a former comptroller, a public advocate, a speaker. They're from the same place."

He told viewers that if they wanted someone to "stop this noise," he was their candidate.

"Not for nothing," countered City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, "you were in government your whole career until you had to resign from government, so I'm not sure why you're finger-pointing at people in government."

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Azi Paybarah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT