It’s pretty obvious that in most major political sex scandals, the men involved generally suffer minor embarrassment but are able to seamlessly return to public life. The women involved, no matter what the circumstances, are mocked, slut-shamed and forever banished from polite society.
Take, for example, David Vitters, the senator from Louisiana and Family Values Man (FVM) who back in 2007 was reported to have been a client of brothels in New Orleans and D.C., and who possibly had a diaper fetish. Personally I don’t care if people wear diapers in their spare time or how much they have to pay to have sex outside of their marriage, but if you’re a professional FVM you’re just asking for trouble.
Not surprisingly, exposure of what some of us refer to as “Diapergate” turned Vitter into a late night TV joke, but he retained his senate seat and ran for governor last year. He did pretty well, too, until allegations resurfaced that he had fathered a child with a hooker.
How did Vitter’s dalliances with prostitutes originally surface back in 2007? His name and phone number were found in a list of records of a company run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, aka the “D.C. Madam,” who was convicted by the U.S. government for running a prostitution service. In 2008, when she was facing at least five years in prison, she was found hanged and her death was ruled a suicide. So no matter how embarrassed Vitter was by exposure of his hypocrisy, it’s safe to say he got off lightly next to Palfrey.
More recently we’ve seen the revolting spectacle of William Jefferson Clinton giving a keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention that focused on his deep and eternal love for his wife and presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. It’s a heartwarming story, but somehow he omitted the part where he received oral sex from Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office as he took a call from a Cuban-American sugar baron and major donor. (In fairness to Bill, the sugar baron was from the crucial battleground state of Florida, which in 1996 was thought to be in play.)
After giving his DNC speech, Bill, who clearly is suffering from Advanced Dorian Gray Syndrome, pranced around the stage chasing after balloons with a demented grin on his face that suggested he’d pumped them up himself and then finished off the tank of nitrous oxide. The crowd roared its approval, in a moment of grotesque amorality that hearkened back to Nuremberg. So Bill is back and he may be on the road back to the White House.
What about Monica Lewinsky? In the immediate aftermath of the scandal, she was relentlessly slut-shamed, especially by “feminists” who defended Bill Clinton, and she became a punching back for late night comedians. She was generally seen as a whore — even though you’d have to be blind not to see that Clinton was a sexual predator who used his position and influence to seduce Lewinsky and that he never cared a rat’s ass about her, other than wanting to be serviced by her whenever it was remotely convenient. Meanwhile, a lot of men respected Clinton more because of the Lewinsky incident, which was totally in keeping with his past conduct, because it showed that he could get fellated by a younger woman, whether it was entirely voluntarily or not.
Monica Lewinsky has somehow recovered to become quite a remarkable woman, but she’ll probably never be able to introduce herself for the rest of her life without being thought of as the woman in the blue-stained dress.
Then there’s the illuminating case of former Congressman Anthony Weiner— whose long-suffering wife, Huma Abedin, happens to be one of Hillary Clinton’s closest friends and top campaign aides and fundraisers — and Sydney Leathers.
Back in 2011, Congressman Weiner was toiling ineffectually in the House. He was perhaps best known for voting for the Iraq War in 2002 and savagely attacking UN diplomats for not paying parking tickets while racking up large sums of unpaid parking tickets himself. Then he accidentally posted a picture of his own penis to his Twitter feed, thinking he was innocently sending it to a 21-year-old woman in Seattle he’d been sexting. It’s a mistake that could clearly happen to anyone.
The ensuing “Weinergate” scandal soon led the congressman to resign from the House. He laid low for two years but in 2013 he announced that he was seeking redemption by running to be mayor of New York City. Within months explicit pictures leaked showing that Weiner had been sexting at least three young women.
One was 22-year-old Sydney Leathers, who was outed by Buzzfeed. Weiner had been sending her pictures of his penis but, in an effort to cover his tracks, had cleverly been using the alias of Carlos Danger. Weiner remained in the mayoral race, ending up in fifth place with less than 5 percent of the vote.
OK, Weiner became a national laughingstock for a few years and he’s still a joke, but what were the long-term consequences? He’s out of politics — though he’s clearly hoping that if Hillary gets elected it will be his ticket back— but he got hired by a PR and crisis management firm (seriously) called MWW. That firm is run by Michael Kempner, a top fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
And just last month the eye-bulging, screws-loose Weiner turned up on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to discuss the new and highly acclaimed documentary Weiner, which was co-directed by Josh Kriegman, his former congressional “chief of staff.” (In retrospect, that is not a title you’d really want on your resume.) The shark-jumping Colbert, who once upon a time, long ago, was worth watching, poked good-natured fun at Weiner and a fine time was had by all. In one especially poignant moment, Weiner admitted that he cried when Hillary lost to Obama back in 2008.
Meanwhile, Slate has also helped resurrect Weiner in an interview with Kriegman and co-director Elyse Steinberg. “I think that most people who have seen the film come away liking him more, but it’s hard to explain why,” exclaims Hanna Rosin, one of the interviewers. “I think it might be because you see him as a fuller human being at the end of the film.” Yeah, I guess that explains it.
What’s truly bizarre to contemplate is that Huma Abedin obviously must have turned to her dear friend Hillary for advice during her public humiliation, and it’s equally obvious that Hillary advised her to stay the course. And whereas one can almost build a case for Hillary to stand by Bill back in the dark days of the mid-1990s — she desperately longed to be president down the road and thought at the time that she needed his political network — Huma had nothing to gain by sticking with her revolting Weiner. She had aligned herself with Hillary, the most powerful sponsor imaginable, and Weiner was clearly going down. That she chose to share a house — and bed???? — with such a repellent figure suggests she either has no moral compass or is loyal to a fault. Or possibly, and I’m speculating here, both.
(Note: I asked Weiner for comment via Twitter and thus far have not heard from him. If I do, I’ll update this story immediately.)
Meanwhile, Sydney Leathers was not treated nearly as compassionately as Carlos Danger after Weinergate II broke. And here I have a personal confession to make. I’ve known Sydney since 2015, when she was introduced to me via a mutual friend and we started DM-ing on Twitter. I didn’t even know much about her then, but my view was that anyone who helped destroy Anthony Weiner, wittingly or not, was OK by me.
She turned out to be smart and funny and utterly enjoyable. I wrote her the first night after we exchanged messages and told her I was seriously glad to know her. “Thanks,” she wrote back, “because most people who message me say i hope you die of AIDS bitch.” That’s a pretty astonishing and sad statement if you think about it. In any case, we’ve been friends ever since.
Anyway, when I heard about the film Weiner, I immediately thought that Sydney would be the perfect person to review it. And she turned in a great piece, which is not only funny and insightful but also has new revelations as well — including the predictable yet somehow surprising possibility that Carlos Danger is still up to his old tricks.