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 22, 2014 -- Updated 1259 GMT (2059 HKT)
You could be forgiven for thinking no one cares -- or even should care, right now -- about climate change, writes CNN's John Sutter. But you'd be mistaken.
September 21, 2014 -- Updated 2132 GMT (0532 HKT)
David Gergen says the White House's war against ISIS is getting off to a rough start and needs to be set right
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1917 GMT (0317 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says making rude use of the Mexican flag on Mexican independence day in a concert in Mexico was extremely tasteless, but not an international incident.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1359 GMT (2159 HKT)
Michael Dunn is going to stand trial again after a jury was unable to reach a verdict; Mark O'Mara hopes for a fair trial.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1927 GMT (0327 HKT)
Laurence Steinberg says the high obesity rate among young children is worrisome for a host of reasons
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT