July 25, 2013

Admiration, puzzlement over Weiner's loyal wife

By David B. Caruso / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, left, listens as his wife, Huma Abedin, speaks during a news conference at the Gay Men's Health Crisis headquarters on Tuesday in New York.

AP

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Huma Abedin, then-deputy chief of staff and aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, confers with Clinton during a meeting in New York in this Sept. 20, 2011, photo.

AP

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Weiner was quoted in the Observer piece as saying, "I think there's some dispute as to whether Huma's actually human or not." At the time, the couple hadn't yet disclosed that they were dating. The two knew each other in political circles for years before becoming romantically involved.

When her new husband's political career disintegrated in 2011 just as she was about to have a child, Abedin couldn't escape the obvious comparisons with her mentor, Clinton, who shoved her own husband's scandals aside to become a massive figure in American politics.

In some ways, the additional name recognition brought by the scandal made her a target.

Last July, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, wrote a letter to the State Department accusing Abedin's late father, mother and brother of being connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian Islamist political party.

That unsubstantiated allegation drew a rebuke from even some Republicans. Sen. John McCain gave a speech on the Senate floor praising Abedin's patriotism and calling her representative of "what is best about America."

Since then, Abedin has appeared dedicated to resurrecting her husband's political career.

She urged him to run for mayor and helped arrange a lengthy New York Times Magazine profile last spring in which the couple talked at length about their struggle to overcome marital problems. In those interviews, they did not disclose that Weiner had continued to chase other women online even after his resignation.

As Weiner's unlikely mayoral campaign has picked up steam, Abedin has helped organize the campaign staff, become his most important fundraiser, and hit the campaign trail, where she told reporters that she was "having so much fun."

Her nervous public appearance with Weiner on Tuesday looked anything but.

"My heart just reaches out to her. She's such a classy, beautiful lady and I just hate to see her in this," U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel said.

People watching the eye-popping spectacle were sure to wonder why she would subject herself to that kind of torture, especially since her career path would appear to be bright even if her husband left public life forever.

Abedin left the State Department when Clinton retired and now heads her private office. If Clinton runs for president again in 2016, most observers expect her to play a role in the campaign.

Stephanie Coontz, who wrote "Marriage: A History" and teaches family studies at Evergreen State University in Olympia, Wash., said it's a shame that her response to her husband's behavior would be a subject of attention at all.

"Everyone is second-guessing the woman's decision," she said. "You saw it with Hillary Clinton. 'Oh, she's manipulative. She's power-hungry.' We do this instead of recognize that marriage and love are complex.

"Someday, it'll be a man standing there ashen-faced, and we'll say, 'Oh my God,' because his masculinity will be called into question," she said. "But things happen in marriages. Couples find a way to deal or they don't. We don't need more reality shows!"

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