If you haven’t heard the name Anthony Weiner, more than likely you have been hiding in a cave the last few weeks. The former Congressman and current New York City mayoral candidate has been making headlines again, and not for his campaign. Here is a little background on Mr. Weiner: Back in 2011, then Representative Weiner (Democrat from NYC), was forced to resign from The House of Representatives for sending illicit messages and pictures to women, other than his wife. At first, Mr. Weiner denied the allegations, but after several days and mounting evidence, he finally admitted to sending sexually explicit material to several women. He resigned from Congress at the urging of party members and returned to New York City.
In May of this year, Mr. Weiner launched a campaign for New York City Mayor. It appeared as though his campaign was gaining ground on front-runner Christine Quinn. In one poll released in early July the race was dead-even. However, that did not last long. On July 23, 2013 Mr. Weiner admitted to sending more sexually explicit text messages other women, after he had left Congress. On July 24, with his wife standing with him, Mr. Weiner held a press conference where he spoke about the new allegations and also said he would remain in the race for New York City Mayor.
As Public Relations practitioners, it is our job to advise and construct a plan which can aid Mr. Weiner in his campaign. Setting aside whether we agree or disagree with what has happened, he is our client. Despite calls for him to exit the race, he is determined to stay in. Despite polls suggesting his support has collapsed, he is determined to stay in the race. Despite, calls from former President Bill Clinton to drop out, he is continuing on with his quest.
How does a PR practitioner manage the crisis of this candidate? Is there a way for him to win the mayoral election?
In electoral politics in this nation there is precedent for disgraced politicians to come back from scandal and lead a very fulfilling public life. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, who was enmeshed in a prostitution scandal never resigned from the Senate and went on to win another term. President Bill Clinton faced impeachment for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. He is still a leading power-broker in the Democratic party and is preparing for his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for President in 2016. Elliot Sptizer, the former governor of New York, resigned after prostitution scandal. Today, he is running for New York City Controller and has hosted his own television show on CNN. Coming back from a scandal is not unheard of. But, something makes this scandal different from all of the others.
It’s been shown that most American’s are forgiving of their representatives when it comes to affairs and sex scandals. Former governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, is now back in Congress, after his scandal broke. Yet, Anthony Weiner is different. First, this is not the first time he has been caught with his pants down. Second, he has not shown remorse. In fact, he has appeared defiant. Yes, he has admitted to the sexting, but it takes more than just admitting you have done something wrong to win forgiveness. President Clinton gave a famous address to the nation. Gov. Sanford did the same thing. Elliot Spitzer resigned and apologized to the people of New York and his wife and children. Weiner has not humbled himself. He has not thrown himself prostrate at the masses and begged for forgiveness. In fact, he has done almost the opposite. When the scandal broke two years ago, he first denied any involvement (much as President Clinton did). However, after his denial, he said there maybe a possibility that it was him. Then came the admission. When the second part of the scandal broke a few weeks ago, Mr. Weiner said he was shocked things hadn’t come out sooner. Mr. Weiner has shown quite a bit of arrogance in the handling of this episode.
Most Americans do not care what a politician does in his or her bedroom. It is not our business to know what goes on behind those doors. However, when a politician shows no remorse or a blatant disregard for the people he or she is representing, it becomes a different story. It is a given that politicians think highly of themselves. This hubris is what generally brings down a celebrity or politician. In Mr. Weiner’s case, it led to his resignation from Congress and has now led to his free fall in Mayoral polls.
If I were advising Mr. Weiner, there is one thing I would tell him to do. GET OUT! Drop out of the race. People don’t like you. You have shown complete contempt for the voters of New York City and your wife and child. Now is not the time to run for Mayor of the largest city in the country. After exiting the race, Mr. Weiner should spend the next four years building back up his credibility with people. Write a book. Become an op-ed contributor. Show yourself putting others ahead of your own aspirations. Work with disadvantaged youth. Teach a course at a local college. Most important, fly below the radar. 2013 is not your year Mr. Weiner. If you exit the race now, you can avoid a catastrophic showing in the polls. If you exit the race now, to say you are going to focus on your family, you will begin to earn some respect from the people of New York. Otherwise, if you stay in the election, and you lose, your path to redemption becomes much more difficult.