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
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT