'Weiner' debuts as directors deny Clinton pressure

Story highlights

  • The documentary focuses on Anthony Weiner's campaign for NYC mayor
  • Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, who is shown in the film, is a top aide to Hillary Clinton

Park City, Utah (CNN)The directors of a new documentary about former Congressman Anthony Weiner's disastrous 2013 run for New York City mayor Sunday denied reports that Hillary Clinton's campaign sought to scrub the role of Weiner's wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin, from the film.

"There was no footage that was taken out because of pressure from the Hillary camp. It's not true," co-director Elyse Steinberg said on Sunday after the debut screening of "Weiner" at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
"We have no control over how Secretary Clinton's opponents, others, are going to utilize this film," she added, responding to speculation it could cause headaches for the campaign eight days out from voting in Iowa.
    The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday cited "multiple sources" with access to early edits of the film as claiming that "Clinton's team" can be seen in footage "trying to pressure Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, to cut ties with him, fearing the scandal will hurt [Clinton's] presidential campaign."
    Josh Kriegman, co-director and a former district chief of staff to Weiner during his time in Congress, also dismissed the report.
    "The last couple of days there have been articles from people who have not even seen the film," he said.
    "There are articles saying that this will be bad for Hillary Clinton's campaign, others saying that it goes soft on Hillary Clinton," Kriegman added, lambasting false "easy narratives" and "sensational headlines."
    More than 20 national news outlets had reporters on hand for the debut -- the movie has garnered media attention because of any possible implications for Clinton's White House bid -- according to one festival employee.
    The 90-minute film begins as a redemption story for Weiner, who resigned from the House of Representatives in 2011 amid a sexting scandal. But after the initial eye-rolling from pundits at his reentry into New York politics, Weiner opens a small lead among the throng of Democratic primary candidates.
    The movie, though, like the unsuccessful campaign in 2013, descends into tears and, eventually, farce after it is revealed that the conduct leading to Weiner's initial disgrace continued well after he left Washington, D.C.
    In the hours after the story breaks, as the campaign tries to craft a timeline to share with the public and media against the one Weiner is contemplating, Abedin quiets the room, declaring, "It's when we were talking about separating."
    Weiner nods.
    Abedin emerges as the film's emotional fulcrum. Initially hesitant and apparently uncomfortable giving speeches at a fundraiser on her husband's behalf, she grows into the moment, appearing buoyant at the campaign's early success.
    But as things turn south, the hurt is written across her face. When Abedin tells an aide not to be seen crying as she leaves the office, there is empathy -- not bloodless pragmatism -- in her voice.
    Though there is no footage of anyone associated with the Clinton campaign telling Abedin to end her marriage, there is unseen influence of Clinton aide Philippe Reines.
    Asked to appear by her husband's side as he goes to vote on Election Day, Abedin demurs, citing a phone conversation with Reines.
    Weiner becomes upset at various points in the documentary when Abedin refuses to, as he puts it, "act like a normal campaign candidate's wife."
    "Leave a few minutes after me," he says before departing for a commercial shoot. "Or someone might think you're married to me."
    Another episode shows Weiner's screwball attempts to avoid a woman, Sydney Leathers, with whom he exchanged sexually explicit correspondence.
    Nicknamed "Pineapple" by his campaign, she turns up outside his campaign headquarters on 5th Avenue days before the vote in an attempt to create a media spectacle.
    Tipped off to her presence, a Weiner aide offers a "tick-tock" of plans for the candidate to avoid her using a diversion. But Weiner decides to steer clear altogether and tells the young staffer to gather phone bankers from inside the cramped office space to "chant the s---" out of her.
    Leathers follows the Weiner candidacy to its death. She emerges outside of an Election Night event prior to its start in an effort to confront a man she describes as once being her "hero."
    "I'm not going to face the indignity of being accosted by this woman," Abedin snaps at her husband, who, along with an aide, executes a madcap scramble through a neighboring McDonald's as Leathers chases closely behind.
    Weiner says he hasn't seen the movie and the filmmakers on Sunday confirmed that.
    Would he ever?
    "I may watch it when it's on," he told CNN, when asked for comment a few days earlier. "Call me then."
    The documentary has been purchased by Sundance Selects, which will release it in theaters on May 20, followed by a run on Showtime.
    The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
    Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled co-director Elyse Steinberg's name.