EAST HARLEM, New York — Former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) told reporters Friday that his wife, Huma Abedin, remains his most influential adviser, even while his campaign struggles to maintain double-digit support.
She has been his closest adviser at a time when Democratic officials and one-time friends have scrambled to distance themselves from him.
“She’s been a remarkable asset to the campaign, and she’s arguably my most influential adviser,” Weiner told reporters outside a public housing building streaked with mildew on Second Avenue.
Abedin has not appeared on the campaign trail since a hastily arranged press conference last month when her husband admitted to sending sexually charged messages to other women after stepping down from Congress because of similar behavior.
“I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him and, as we’ve said from the beginning, we’re moving forward,” she told reporters on July 23.
Abedin has not appeared on the campaign trail with Weiner since then, however.
Weiner said Friday that he’s worried that bringing her into the public spotlight would distract from his campaign message, which is focused on issues affecting the quality of life of middle-class and, particularly, low-income voters.
“I’m in a vexing place here. To some degree, I want this campaign to be about things I want this campaign to be about, and there are some people who want it to be about something else,” he said. “If my wife appears on the campaign, you’re going to write a story about my wife appearing on the campaign, even if I’m talking about public housing.”
Weiner made his remarks during a visit to the Jefferson Houses in East Harlem to highlight his work in the mid-1990s while a member of the New York City Council to remove flammable paint from public housing stairwells.
(Alexander Bolton/The Hill)
Weiner touted Idea No. 120 from his policy ideas book to create a public-private “Marshall Plan” to improve public housing facilities. During his visit, one resident complained to The Hill about broken sidewalks stretching between Second Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard. She declined to give her name because she is an employee of the New York City Housing Authority.
Weiner said none of his opponents have offered a similarly ambitious program to restore conditions in the lower-income neighborhood.
He dinged his opponent, Bill de Blasio, for spending time with Hollywood celebrities instead of meeting with regular New Yorkers. Susan Sarandon hosted a ping-pong fundraiser for de Blasio in Manhattan last Sunday.
“Some voters might be influenced by the idea that a TV star is standing with a person. I think they’re more interested in how you’re going to solve the problems that face their lives,” Weiner said.
“There is perhaps some chance that Susan Sarandon will come here and fix the housing development here. There’s a chance,” he quipped. “I think, probably, my ideas are more likely to persuade people that I’m serious about it.”
Weiner acknowledged in an interview with BuzzFeed earlier this month that his behavior hurt his wife's career.
"I feel that what I've done has hurt her, yeah. It's hurt her professionally. It's hurt her personally," he said. "We made a decision that these things were behind us, and we made a calculated gamble on the question of whether or not citizens would be more interested in their family's future than in my personal failings that are behind me. She's gotten roughed up, and it's been completely unfair in my view."