The first words in the mayoral forum here at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, an HIV-advocacy organisation in midtown Manhattan, were aimed directly at Anthony Weiner.
“It’s unfortunate today that we have to deal with Mr. Weiner’s latest sexual psychodrama,” said Sal Albanese, a fellow Democratic candidate for mayor.
Weiner, who was staring at his notes, kept looking down while the crowd “ooh”-ed and “ahh”-ed and even hissed. The comment came after the most trying day in the Weiner comeback campaign — one that ended with Weiner participating in a cringeworthy press conference with his wife, Huma Abedin, detailing revelations about new lewd photos and chats he had sent online over the past two years.
Surely, the new revelations — Weiner admitted that some online conversations came after he resigned from Congress in 2011 — will hurt a campaign that appeared to be gaining momentum with each new poll released.
Aside from that opening shot, though, the night went as smoothly as possible for Weiner in a feisty mayoral forum. Overall, the forum served as a sort of preview of why Weiner, for good or bad, is refusing to drop out of the race — he’s betting that his campaign of a “second chance” still sticks.
When he walked down the hall form his press conference and into the forum that focused on funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, he drew a lengthy cheer. His opening statement made mention of the new scandal — and he thanked the media for sticking around — but he twisted it into his common theme of a second chance.
“There are a lot of people who probably listen to me and say, you know what, you’re not a very good messenger for these things,” Weiner said, “because you’ve made some mistakes. And that’s right. I don’t dispute it.” But he asked the voters at the forum to give him a second chance — much as he has done throughout his time so far on the campaign trail.
They cheered. “You the man!” one supporter shouted.
At times, the forum was rather lighthearted. Randy Credico, the long-shot candidate, remarked that compared with his personal scandals, the revelations about Weiner were nothing.
“I did cocaine for 25 years! I didn’t like it,” Credico joked, as Weiner smiled.
At this forum, particularly, many attendees identified with Weiner. Two women, who didn’t want to be identified for this story, gave simple reasons — they were both former drug addicts. One was HIV-positive. They both felt that they had been given a second chance in life and that Weiner was the best candidate to turn around their city.
Before he made a mad dash and escaped out of the building through a swarm of hungry press, Weiner was given the opportunity to close out the forum.
“There are a lot of people who, today, say they want me to stop,” Weiner said in his closing remarks. “What I say to them is, this isn’t about me. This is about the city needing someone — after 12 years — to fight for them for a while.”
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