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
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2108 GMT (0508 HKT)
The NFL's new Player Conduct Policy was a missed chance to get serious about domestic violence, says Mel Robbins.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the CBO didn't provide an accurate picture of Obamacare's impact, so why rehire its boss?
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
Russian aggression has made it clear Ukraine must rethink its security plans, says Olexander Motsyk, Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
The Senate committee report on torture has highlighted partisan divisions on CIA methods, says Will Marshall. Republicans and Democrats are to blame.
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1833 GMT (0233 HKT)
It would be dishonest to say that 2014 has been a good year for women. But that hasn't stopped some standing out, says Frida Ghitis.
ADVERTISEMENT