Huma Abedin was notably absent when Anthony Weiner admitted to 2011 scandal
She is now at her husband's side amid the latest sex chat revelations
Abedin, 36, says it's been a struggle, but she forgives him
She has worked with Hillary Clinton since 1996 and was a top State Department aide
When former U.S. congressman Anthony Weiner admitted two years ago to sending explicit messages and photos to women online, his wife was notably absent, letting Weiner make his public mea culpa alone. But on Tuesday, Huma Abedin was front and center as Weiner confessed to having further explicit exchanges, even after the first scandal forced his resignation from Congress.
Abedin, 36, is no stranger to politics. She has worked for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for years and accompanied her husband on the campaign trail in his current bid for New York City mayor.
She had her first news conference on Tuesday, however, and she admitted to being nervous – but it was her moment to defend her husband of three years and describe her struggle to forgive him.
“It took a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony,” Abedin said. “It was not an easy choice in any way, but I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage.”
Weiner admitted in June 2011 that he had sent sexually explicit messages and photos to women online. He apologized for initially claiming they weren’t his and said he was seeking treatment, and he resigned from the U.S. House two weeks later.
The couple had a baby boy in December of that year.
On Tuesday, a gossip website published screen shots of sexual conversations that it said Weiner had had with a woman last summer, along with explicit photographs it claimed he had sent.
In his afternoon news conference, Weiner admitted that some of the online exchanges and photographs were his but said some were from before his resignation and some were after.
Abedin said Tuesday she knows her husband made “horrible mistakes” both before and after his resignation from Congress.
“We discussed all of this before he decided to run for mayor, so really what I want to say is, I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward,” she said.
From intern to State Department
Abedin began working for Clinton as a White House intern in 1996, eventually becoming the former first lady’s traveling chief of staff – or “body man” – during her campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
When Clinton became secretary of state, Abedin served as a top aide to her. She remains a Clinton adviser.
Although she is described as a very private person, Abedin’s intelligence, striking style, unusual background and ability “to make the trains run on time” brought her attention well before her July 2010 marriage to Weiner.
Vogue magazine profiled her in 2007, an unusual distinction for a campaign aide.
“Huma Abedin has the energy of a woman in her 20s, the confidence of a woman in her 30s, the experience of a woman in her 40s and the grace of a woman in her 50s,” Clinton told Vogue. “She is timeless, her combination of poise, kindness, and intelligence are matchless, and I am lucky to have had her on my team for a decade now.”
Abedin is the daughter of college professors. Her late father, an Islamic scholar, was from India and her mother, a sociologist, was from Pakistan. She was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but the family moved to Saudi Arabia when she was 2. She moved back to the United States to attend George Washington University.
She told Vogue that she decided at 15 that she wanted to be an international journalist, inspired by CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour.
Abedin’s plans changed when the White House intern program assigned her to the first lady’s office, not the press office as she had requested.
She’s not been far from Clinton since then, friends say.
“I don’t think you could say they are like mother and daughter,” actress Mary Steenburgen and longtime friend of the Clintons told Vogue in 2007. “It’s more like an older sister-younger sister relationship, but it’s definitely familial.”
Her efficiency, language abilities, attention to detail and remarkable ability to pack for long trips – noted by the Vogue reporter – make her invaluable to the globe-trotting Clinton.
“Huma does make the trains run on time,” Clinton lawyer Bob Barnett told Vogue.
The Vogue story hinted in 2007 that she had dated actor John Cusack and cyclist Lance Armstrong. Abedin was introduced to Weiner during the 2008 congressional campaign.
Former President Bill Clinton officiated at their wedding. Their marriage drew extra attention because Abedin is Muslim and Weiner is Jewish.
Weiner rose through New York City politics as a young man unafraid of a fight and eager for media attention. Abedin, in contrast, is known for her diplomacy and privacy.
In her own words
As Weiner’s latest scandal unfolded, Harper’s Bazaar published excerpts of an article Abedin wrote for the magazine.
“Three years ago I was a single workaholic, traveling the globe with an amazing job at the U.S. State Department. I could not have imagined how much my life would change in three short years,” Abedin wrote for the magazine’s September issue.
“Today I’m married, with a feisty 20-month-old son, a full-time job, and a husband running for mayor of New York.”
Abedin said she has long kept her personal life private, and no one is more surprised than she is to see herself out on the campaign trail.
“So why am I doing this? Because Anthony has always been a smart, caring, and dedicated person, and while he’s the same public servant who wants what’s best for the people he represents, he is now something else – a better man,” Abedin wrote.
“New Yorkers will have to decide for themselves whether or not to give him a second chance. I had to make that same decision for myself, for my son, for our family. And I know in my heart that I made the right one.”