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Will 'sexters' in the city give Weiner a pass?

By Roxanne Jones, Special to CNN
updated 5:23 PM EDT, Thu July 25, 2013
Anthony Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, hold a press conference on Tuesday, July 23, to address explicit online exchanges that were published by a gossip website. Anthony Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, hold a press conference on Tuesday, July 23, to address explicit online exchanges that were published by a gossip website.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Roxanne Jones: Don't count out "Carlos Danger" yet; Weiner should still run for mayor
  • Calls for him to quit may not take into account Americans' growing tendency to "sext," she says
  • She says if Spitzer can run with his sex scandal, why not Weiner? Voters should decide
  • Jones: Maybe it's time to accept that flawed people can still govern productively

Editor's note: Roxanne Jones is a founding editor of ESPN the Magazine and former vice president at ESPN. She is the CEO of the Push Marketing Group. Jones is an award-winning editor, reporter, writer and producer who has also worked at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She is co-author of "Say It Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete." Watch her tonight on CNN at 7 pm on "Erin Burnett OutFront."

(CNN) -- Don't count Carlos Danger out of the New York mayoral race just yet. He's still a contender.

That's Anthony Weiner, for anyone who slept through the news that more X-rated photos and text messages apparently sent (under that nom de plume) by Weiner to a then-22-year-old woman have surfaced.

The raunchy messages were reportedly sent via the social media website Formspring in August 2012, nearly a year after Weiner resigned from Congress after his first sex scandal. But this time around, Weiner is smarter. Instead of denials, Weiner has admitted communicating with the young woman and asked for forgiveness, again.

Roxanne Jones
Roxanne Jones

"I want to bring my vision to the people of the city of New York. I hope they are willing to still continue to give me a second chance," Weiner said in his news conference Tuesday with his wife, Huma Abedin, a longtime Hillary Clinton adviser, standing by his side.

I say Weiner should stay in the race and let the voters decide his fate.

Opinion: The public humiliation of Huma Abedin

And it looks like he's planning to do just that. He's resisting all calls to step down and has promised, once again, to stop sexting. Just 10 days ago, polls showed him narrowly leading the race for the Democratic nomination over City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, according to USA Today.

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Everyone loves to chime in on a scandal. And while numerous people and publications, including the New York Times editorial board, profess outrage over latest Weiner's moral lapses -- and others are labeling him a sexual predator and demanding that he drop out -- it may be time for Americans to fess up.

Anthony Weiner may be in the headlines today, but many American adults are using social networking to spice up their sex lives.

Weiner's messages are raunchy. They read more like an erotica novel by the hugely successful author Zane. And one of the reasons voters may just grant Weiner the forgiveness he's asking for is because many of us can relate.

Sexting between adults, both married and single, is on the rise. Nearly one in five adults in the U.S. says they use their smartphone for sexting, sharing explicit photos or text messages with others, says Lookout Mobile Security, which sponsored the Harris Interactive poll of 2,097 adults.

The biggest age groups for sexting are 18- to 34-year-old men (32%) and 35- to 44-year-old women (25%). Even baby boomers are getting into the action, with one in 10 people age 55 and older sexting. All those parents who are admonishing their children about the dangers of sexting? Well, they speak from experience: The Harris survey found that 30% of parents with children under the age of 18 have also sexted.

Like it or not, we have become a sexting nation, which may explain why some voters are willing to forgive politicians caught up in sex scandals and give them a second and even a third chance.

If Eliot Spitzer, who resigned as New York governor in 2008 after a scandal involving prostitutes, can rehab his political career enough to compete for New York City comptroller in this election, then it stands to reason that Weiner, with all his faults, still has the right to have voters decide whether he's fit enough to become the city's next mayor.

"New Yorkers have a forgiving attitude. If this was in another state, Weiner might not make it, but here, he has a chance," said Vincent Hurst, an educator in New York. For Hurst, who says Weiner won't get his vote, it's all about his politics.

"I probably won't vote for him -- or Eliot Spitzer, either. Weiner wants to cut 1,400 parent coordinator positions from the Department of Education. That's a disgrace," Hurst said.

Like many voters, Hurst is concerned that the Weiner story will take away from the critical issues facing voters in the coming election.

Opinion: Hey Weiner, New York doesn't like to look stupid

"I'm almost betting that another allegation will come up. This is a very important election. The new mayor will likely reform the Department of Education and other important city agencies. We need to focus on those issues, not his sex life."

Whether it's Weiner, Spitzer or one of the city's favorite sons, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the political sex scandal has become a familiar story at every level of American politics. And after the headlines fade, it almost seems a non-issue at the polls. Voters today are more likely to forgive and even re-elect the candidate unless the scandal involved gross corruption or misuse of public funds, such as when Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was forced to leave office.

Maybe the time has come to accept that American politicians are flawed, but that doesn't necessarily exclude them from a productive political career. These stories will not go away, not with the incredible access technology gives us into personal lives of our neighbors around the globe.

"American attitudes are changing about sex because of evolving sexual norms and modernization," said Alison Dagnes, associate professor of political science at Shippensburg University. "We are a forgiving nation and will forgive the sinner if he is truly apologetic. If a politician can make the case that sexual impropriety is a personal matter, the public will likely give him a pass."

"But the timing is a problem for Weiner," said Dagnes, also the editor of "Sex Scandals in American Politics: A Multidisciplinary Approach." "How many times is he going to apologize to the public?"

Opinion: Why Weiner's problem is ours, too

We don't know what type of relationship Weiner has with his wife, but Abedin is standing by her husband for now. That's her choice. New York voters will also have an important choice about Weiner and Spitzer and whether we hold our politicians to a higher moral responsibility than we hold ourselves.

The decision is ours.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roxanne Jones.

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