In Defense of Anthony Weiner


The calls for New York Rep. Anthony Weiner to resign intensified on Thursday, with even members of his own party saying he should step down. Weiner is standing tough, though, refusing to walk away from his job. And really, why should he?

I will start this by saying that as a married man, what Weiner did was wrong. It was inappropriate and disrespectful to his wife to engage in online relationships with women. Nobody is defending that.

But does what he did rise to the level of resigning from Congress?

Weiner flirted with strange women online and sent them compromising photos -- something millions of people do every day. Yes, a stupid thing for a high-profile member of Congress to do. But he did not break any laws, nor did he break his marriage vows by having a physical relationship with these women (although whether "sexting" qualifies as cheating is a different argument).

Yes, he did initially lie about it, but he didn't lie under oath -- he lied to the media and to friends and family, and by extension, to his constituents. Weiner said he will leave it to the voters in the next election to decide if what he did was bad enough to remove him from office, if his judgment is so poor that he should not represent them anymore. That seems fair.

Many people are taking this too far. His ex-girlfriend Kirsten Powers, a columnist for The Daily Beast and a Fox News contributor, called Weiner a "predator." The two remained friends (until now, quite likely), and Powers defended Weiner on Fox last week after he insisted to her in an email that he was innocent. Perhaps Powers feels betrayed, and rightly so.

But it is a stretch to call Weiner a predator. He didn't force himself on these women. They were willing players in this online game. Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a predator, allegedly. Weiner is not.

What Weiner did was sleazy, we can likely all agree. But was it bad enough to destroy his political career?


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