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 6:45 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
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.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT