Anthony Weiner’s Possible Comeback

The NY congressman who made national headlines for sending lewd photos of himself to strangers is considering a run for New York City mayor.

I can just see the bumper stickers now.

No doubt testing the waters, Anthony Weiner and his wife gave in-depth interviews that were the heart of a lengthy NY Times Magazine article.

As I stated on the Chuck and Kelly Show this morning, Weiner has a tough hill to climb, very tough, but I wouldn’t say it’s impossible. New York voters have a high tolerance for misbehavior by their politicians. Weiner’s original offense, strange as it was, didn’t actually involve any sex and didn’t appear to break any laws or misuse taxpayer money. That puts him ahead of Spitzer, Rangel and the long list of crooked state legislators now in trouble. Weiner also has a $4.3 million war chest and another $1.5 awaiting him in matching funds.

Weiner’s polling confirms, as he puts it, “there’s a healthy number of people who will never get over it.” But he wants “to ask people to give him a second chance.” Second chances must be earned. Weiner has two principle challenges:

1- Convincing people he is truly contrite.
Contrition for ambition’s sake is not true contrition. His wife, Huma, must play a role here. She must convince voters she really believes her husband is sorry. Oprah, Barbara Walters, whatever. The public has to witness this exposition, from both of them, and judge for themselves.

2- Answering the Bizzarro factor. Is he fixed?
How can an ambitious congressman think sending lewd photos to strangers not cause him trouble? Is this man stable enough to run NY City? Weiner still hasn’t given a real answer to the question, “how could he do it?” He said, he “viewed it as so frivolous” and “it was just another way to feed this notion that I want to be liked and admired.” He’ll have to do better than that.

The Times article presents a theory this potential run, even if unsuccessful, might put the episode behind him to set up a future run. Perhaps. In the end, voters make choices based on what they think is best for them.

I don’t think Weiner would stand a chance in Kansas. But, then again, they don’t ban big sodas there.

The writer is a one-time elected official and small business owner who provides political consulting and crisis communication counsel. More here.

What Weiner Should Have Done

When the press begins to call a U.S. Congressman the “Peter Tweeter,” there’s a pr problem.

First, let’s be honest. The guy’s name has made it a bigger story. That’s just plain bad luck for him. It reminds us of 1988 presidential contender Gary Hart fooling around with his mistress Donna Rice on the yacht, Monkey Business.

Just today (June 6th), a new report from a conservative website, Big Government, claims it has been contacted by another woman claiming she had exchanged intimate photos and online communications with Congressman Anthony Weiner.

We don’t know what the truth is yet, but it is true Congressman  Weiner has thrown gas on the fire by not being straightforward about a lewd photograph sent from his Twitter account to a college co-ed. Though Weiner claims his account was hacked into (certainly possible), the real story has been the odd approach to answering, or should I say, not answering, media questions. Weiner even refuses to say “with certitude” if the picture is of him.

Weiner is a case study in how not to handle a communication crisis. His obfuscation only prompts further scrutiny. The nature of his answers leads one to believe he is hiding something. The media will not rest until they discover what it is.

Whatever the full story is, it will get a lot more attention now than it would have a week ago because of the firestorm Weiner has created. When bad news hits, get in front of the story, come clean, say you are sorry, and try to move on.
Added Post Script:
Just hours after this post, Weiner held a press conference to announce he’d been lying for days and that he had sent sexual photos and tweets to about six women. Now, his tweets are not his biggest problem, his truthfulness is now in play. What a horribly mismanaged communication crisis.

Mark Grimm is a former TV news anchor/producer and adjunct journalism professor who runs a small training and media relations business.