After failing to deep six New York Democrat Anthony Weiner's mayoral campaign on the heels of yet another dirty messaging scandal, the New York tabloid press has set its sights on his wife, Huma Abedin, with the cover of Thursday's New York Post (referring to her by her husband's sexting moniker) asking, "Señora Danger… What's Wrong With You?"
In the wake of Anthony Weiner's bizarre press conference Tuesday announcing he will not pull out of the New York mayoral race despite a new cache of illicit Internet messages he sent to a female admirer, scrutiny has shifted to Abedin, who also spoke at the press conference. Politico said her appearance "tested Gotham's gag reflex" and quoted a political scientist saying, "But she's complicit too, an enabler or whatever you want to call it. … It's the Twilight Zone. It's Oz. It's f—-ng crazy."
Vanity Fair questioned her involvement in the political spin surrounding Weiner's sexting scandals, particularly her role in the "utter bulls--t about the couple's emotional rehabilitation unwittingly peddled by People magazine back in July."
Even the New York Times posted an anecdotal story, chatting with women over their picnic lunches about their thoughts on her decision to stand by her husband. A number of outlets have also highlighted a ill-timed preview of an essay Abedin wrote for September's Harper's Bazaar (presumably written before the latest round of revelations) about supporting Weiner. Not all the attention has been negative, with writers from Time, CNN, and Huffington Post defending her.
Though the question of whether or not a wife should leave her politician husband after a sex scandal has always been of interest to the media (and to pop culture at large, with TV shows like "The Good Wife" and "Scandal" dealing with such topics), the criticism of Abedin's decision to act as her husband's booster is even more pronounced today.
"Traditionally women had stood by their husbands, and traditionally the media didn't really cover them, and they didn't cover the private dimension of the scandal – like how the scandal is impacting the children or the wives or the community," says Lara Brown, a political analyst who has studied political scandals. "The media focus was on how it was impacting the election and the voters."
However things may have changed for women in recent years on the political-cultural front, particularly where sex scandals are concerned. And Abedin's own political connections – though often described as "deeply private," she is a longtime Hillary Clinton staffer who has reportedly taken an influential role in her husband's political comeback post-Weinergate Round 1 – makes this an even more fascinating case.
"If Anthony Weiner was married to someone who had no connection to the Clintons, I don't think you would see this kind of 'backlash' towards Huma," Brown says. "There is a reality that Hillary Clinton was Huma's mentor and boss in the political world. They're very close. It doesn't surprise me that Clinton would have advised her to stick it out."
Whether or not Abedin has plans to follow in Clinton's footsteps and run for office herself, Weiner's success has its own pay off for Abedin's relationship to the Clintons, particularly if Hillary chooses to run for president in 2016.
"If Anthony Weiner wins this contest, that makes Huma first lady of New York City, and that also really helps Hillary Clinton with a 2016 race from a money standpoint," Brown says, as it would freeze out from New York donor circles Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who have both been considered as possible challengers to Clinton for the 2016 Democratic ticket. Indeed, Politico has a round up of the Abedin critics who have made this connection.
Whatever her future intentions, the attention has focused on the political calculus of her decision to stand by her husband, particularly as Weiner appeared to have re-engaged in the behavior that got him in trouble in the first place as his comeback publicity tour was already in gear.
"She has not just been the beautiful wife standing by at the press conference," says Michael Cobb, a professor of political science at North Carolina State University. "She's been quite forceful in giving him cover."