Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Soul-searching Weiner seeks forgiveness

By Howard Kurtz, CNN
updated 12:48 PM EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Howard Kurtz: NYT article shows Anthony Weiner positioning for comeback
  • But piece is more: A raw catharsis for Weiner and wife, Huma Abedin, over his downfall
  • He says his recounting confession to wife includes intense soul-searching
  • Kurtz: It seems Weiner wants more than political viability; he wants forgiveness

Editor's note: Howard Kurtz is the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" and is Newsweek's Washington bureau chief. He is also a contributor to the website Daily Download.

(CNN) -- In his anguished, rambling and excruciatingly candid therapy session with The New York Times Magazine this week, Anthony Weiner was nominally engaged in damage control to clear the way for a political comeback.

But it was so much more -- it was a catharsis, for the former congressman and his wife Huma Abedin, that was both hard to read and impossible to put down.

On some fundamental level, he had a need to tell the story -- the entire story -- of what an "idiot" he had been to send pictures of his private parts to random women, which cost him his job and came close to costing him his marriage.

Howard Kurtz
Howard Kurtz

WATCH: NBC's Chelsea Clinton talks up her political future on ... NBC

Weiner could have gone the standard route of sitting down for a television interview, Huma holding his hand, and tearing up at the right moment as he described how truly sorry he was for his bad behavior. Having checked that box, he could have run for New York mayor or some lesser office.

Weiner considering mayoral bid

But he chose to, well, expose himself more fully. As Weiner recounted his original Twitter deception to writer Jonathan Van Meter:

"It reached this point where I just sat down with Huma and said, 'Listen, I can't. ... I don't want to lie.' ... I just didn't want to lie anymore to her."

Here, his voice cracks and tears well up in his eyes.

Opinion: Zombie politicians find new life after disgrace

"I have a choppy memory of it, but she was devastated. She immediately said, 'Well you've got to stop lying to everyone else too.' And basically we drove back to the city, and she said: 'You've just got to tell everyone the truth. Telling me doesn't help any.'

"It was brutal. It was completely out of control. There was the crime, there was the cover-up, there was harm I had done to her. And there's no one who deserved this less than Huma. That's really the bottom line. No one deserved to have a dope like me do that less than she did."

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



WATCH: How did Anthony Weiner handle his newspaper therapy session?

But it wasn't just a colorful tick-tock. Weiner engaged in such deep soul-searching -- even suggesting a troubled relationship with his father -- that at one point Van Meter told him that perhaps they should stop for now. Here, for instance, is Weiner describing his motivation in texting and tweeting these women:

"And there just wasn't much of me who was smart enough, sensitive enough, in touch with my own things, understanding enough about the disrespect and how dishonorable it was to be doing that. It didn't seem to occupy a real space in my feelings. ... I wasn't really thinking. What does this mean that I'm doing this? Is this risky behavior? Is this smart behavior? To me, it was just another way to feed this notion that I want to be liked and admired."

2011: Weiner resigns from Congress
2011: Breitbart talked Weiner scandal

WATCH: Mother Jones gets tape of McConnell's Ashley Judd-bashing session

Several subplots also emerged in this melodrama.

Abedin worked for Hillary Clinton, who was famously wronged by her man and who helped support her friend Huma during the ordeal.

Jon Stewart, a longtime friend of the New York Democrat, said he would have faced comedy "impeachment" had he not joked about Weinergate, but also recalls telling him: "As low as you are, please understand that what's happening to you right now isn't really happening to you, it's happening to whatever caricature we've all created of you."

The political press will judge the article based on whether Weiner can convince voters that he should be given, as he put it, a "second chance." And why shouldn't they?

While Weiner made a terrible mistake in initially lying about what happened, his is a sex scandal that involved no actual sex. If Mark Sanford, who snuck off to his Argentinian lover, can win the GOP nomination for his old House seat in South Carolina and if Bill Clinton can be a revered elder statesman, is Weiner beyond redemption?

WATCH: Shocker -- half of Justin Bieber's Twitter followers are fake!

But it seems to me that Weiner, in putting himself and his intensely private wife through this grueling process, wants more than political viability. He is seeking forgiveness.

"A big part of himself wants to cleanse himself of this scandal," Van Meter told CNN's Jake Tapper.

The reporter was well aware that Weiner was using him and the Times to salvage his political career. But Van Meter nonetheless produced a remarkable piece of journalism. Can the movie version be far behind?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Howard Kurtz

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
updated 10:11 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Sun August 17, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
updated 5:46 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
updated 4:24 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
updated 4:35 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
updated 7:08 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
updated 11:25 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT