Anthony Weiner’s Latest Sexting Scandal Meets a Conflicted Media Landscape

August 29, 2016, 11:19 PM UTC
Anthony Weiner Holds Press Conference As New Sexting Evidence Emerges
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: Huma Abedin, wife of Anthony Weiner, a leading candidate for New York City mayor, speaks during a press conference on July 23, 2013 in New York City. Weiner addressed news of new allegations that he engaged in lewd online conversations with a woman after he resigned from Congress for similar previous incidents. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore — Getty Images

Former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner is embroiled in yet another scandal over sexually-explicit tweets he sent to an unnamed woman while his wife, top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, was traveling with the Democratic presidential candidate.

The story has already provided plenty of fodder for tabloid newspapers and websites. But is it really relevant to the campaign, or is it just appealing to prurient interests in an attempt to drive online traffic?

The New York Post was the first to report the latest allegations, in a story that ran on Sunday. It quoted from months worth of tweets Weiner sent to “a 40-something divorcee” that were filled with sexual innuendo and photos of himself in his underwear, including one taken with his young son lying on the bed next to him.

Weiner has been a favorite of the tabloids ever since he was forced to resign from Congress in 2011, after sending a sexually-explicit photo to a woman on Twitter. Two years later, he ran for mayor of New York, and was again forced to quit his campaign, after reports that he had been sending naked photos and sexually-suggestive messages to other women.

At the time, Abedin stood by her husband, but on Monday she said they were separating. Abedin has been a close Clinton aide for two decades. She worked as Clinton’s personal assistant during a run for president in 2008 and then as chief-of-staff while she was Secretary of State, and Clinton has said Abedin is like a second daughter.

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There’s no question that Abedin plays a fairly critical role in the Clinton campaign. But does that mean her husband’s behavior on Twitter are somehow relevant to coverage of the election?

Donald Trump tried to argue that Weiner’s sexting might be a potential threat to national security, since he might have overheard classified information from his wife that could be passed on to his sexting partners. But this seems like a stretch at best.

Some argue that reporting on Abedin’s marital troubles is justified because a number of media outlets recently reported on a past domestic-violence charge against Breitbart News head Steve Bannon, who is now a top advisor to the Trump campaign, and therefore Clinton and her staff are fair game.

Others have tried to make the case that if Abedin is struggling with her husband’s infidelity, then it might make the Clinton campaign less effective. But that seems like more of an effort to justify being interested in a lurid sexting case than it does an actual political argument.

Unfortunately for anyone who wants to try and keep lurid or sensationalistic topics out of the campaign, however, Donald Trump has already done more than enough to lower that bar himself, without any help from Anthony Weiner or Hillary Clinton.

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