Anthony Weiner was under intense pressure to abandon his improbable run for mayor of New York on Wednesday as his rivals, and the city’s press, turned on him after the publication of a new, explicit self-taken picture.
Three of Weiner’s fellow mayoral candidates called for him to quit after he admitted on Tuesday that he had continued to exchange sexually charged messages with young women after leaving Congress after similar allegations in 2011.
The latest revelations threatened to turn the race for senior positions in New York politics into little more than a lurid circus. A parallel bid for election to the post of city comptroller by Elliot Spitzer, brought low by his admission that he hired prostitutes when governor of New York state, has done nothing to elevate the debate.
Democrat Bill de Blasio launched an online petition to force Weiner to leave the running. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the New York Daily News all agreed he should go. In a blistering editorial, the Times said Weiner “should take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye, away from cameras, off the web and out of the race for mayor of New York City”.
De Blasio, who trails his rivals for the Democractic nomination in the polls, said in a statment that “the sideshows of this election have gotten in the way of the debate we should be having about the future of our city”.
“Stand with me now by demanding that Anthony Weiner withdraw from this race, for the good of the city that I know he loves as much as all of us,” he added.
Republican John Catsimatidis said Weiner should “do what is right for his family and our city and drop out of the race for mayor so we can end this soap opera”, while Democrat Sal Albanese also said Weiner should withdraw.
New York City comptroller John Liu said the former congressman’s “propensity for pornographic selfies is a valid issue for voters”, but stopped short of calling on him to drop out of the race. Christine Quinn, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, remained above the fray.
Weiner had called a press conference on Tuesday after a website called The Dirty published chats between him and an unnamed young woman. It claimed the messages, which referred to specific sex acts and were explicit in nature, were sent in the latter half of 2012.
In addition to the messages, Weiner had also sent a picture of his penis to the woman. He had previously resigned from Congress after accidentally tweeting a picture of his penis in the summer of 2011 – he had been attempting to send it as a private message – but in running for mayor Weiner had implied that his resignation had marked the end of his indiscretions.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, with his wife Huma Abedin by his side, he acknowledged that he had continued to send explicit messages to women who were not his wife using the alias “Carlos Danger”.
“Some have asked the question, where does this fit in, some timeline,” Weiner said. “Some of these things happened before my resignation, some of them happened after, but the fact is that this was the time that my wife and I were working through these things in our marriage.”
The obfuscation over when his sexting had ceased to continue riled the New York Times in particular, which colluded with his bid for political rehabilitation with a favourable magazine profile in April. According to the latest accuser, Weiner asked her on Facebook what she thought of the article.
“The timing here matters, as it would for any politician who violates the public’s trust and then asks to have it back,” the paper’s editorial said on Wednesday. The Times said Weiner had “suggested that people should have known that his sexting was an unresolved problem well into 2012”.
“That’s ridiculous and speaks to a familiar but repellent pattern of misleading and evasion,” it said.
A Wall Street Journal article said Weiner “ought to drop out of the New York City mayor’s race simply because of what he’s forced his wife to endure”.
“Watching the elegant Huma Abedin stand next to her man Tuesday as he explained his latest sexually charged online exchanges was painful for a normal human being to watch,” it said. “Mr Weiner is not a normal human being.”
Weiner has vowed to continue his bid for the mayorship and Abedin has again vowed to stand by her husband. It remains to be seen how the latest round of revelations will affect Weiner’s bid for the Democratic nomination.
Last week a Quinnipiac poll showed Weiner leading city council speaker Christine Quinn, 25% to 22%. However a New York Times/Siena College poll showed Quinn with a 27-18 lead over Weiner among registered voters in New York.