WASHINGTON — Anthony Weiner says he has stopped sexting, has leveled with his wife, and is no longer hiding anything from her or the public. He says he’s a changed man. But he has said these things before. Now that we have a time line of his alleged sexting last year with a 22-year-old woman, let’s go back and look at what he was saying publicly and doing politically during that time. Do his conduct and his statements match up? Take a look.
June 16, 2011: Weiner resigns from Congress. He apologies to his wife, Huma Abedin, and says they will "continue to heal from the damage I have caused."
Summer to Fall: "Not long" after Weiner’s resignation, the young woman "reached out to express her disappointment in him," according to a New York Times summary of an account by Nik Richie, a blog editor who has communicated with her. Richie calls her "Anonymous."
Dec. 21: Abedin gives birth to the couple’s first child. Weiner announces the boy’s birth in a text: "Did I mention his mom is amazing?"
Spring 2012: Weiner’s dormant $4.5 million mayoral campaign fund (left over from previous elections) continues to pay office rent. According to New York Post sources, the period leading up to late June includes "months of discussion between Weiner and his wife ... about the best way to pull off a comeback." During this time, "Weiner summoned former staffers to a dinner ... to discuss his potential comeback." New York magazine later describes a dinner with Weiner in 2012, "less than a year" after his resignation, at which he "seemed a shambling figure with the furtive, chastened aspect of a teen-age boy caught with a cache of stroke books under his mattress." During the dinner, Weiner says, "I’m supposed to be sorry, sorry in this way you’re supposed to be sorry ... but I don’t know if it’s hitting me like that."
June 29: After ducking previous invitations, Weiner agrees to a long interview on WNYC about health care. New York Post sources say "the real purpose is for Weiner to begin rolling out his return to public life." He tells Brian Lehrer, "I feel great regret for the people that I let down."
July 12: According to Anonymous, this is the day on which "Anthony Weiner and I first started talking." Richie’s blog, the Dirty, claims Weiner "lured" her "via Facebook."
July 15: New York Post sources say Weiner is "trying to figure out how to run for mayor." He has "reached out to politicos to ‘talk about the landscape.’" A day later, the Times reports that Weiner "wants to return to politics, according to friends and former staff members."
July 16: "Sources close to Huma ... tell the Post she has been pushing her husband to do a single interview ... that would be the final word on the sexting mess that ended Weiner’s career in Congress last year. She believes it would clear the air once and for all and allow him to move forward." One source says, "She wants to figure out how to get all this behind them so they can get back on track, but he’s still in denial." Another source says the couple "thinks everything’s going to be OK."
July 18: People announces an "exclusive interview" with Weiner and Abedin, featuring a photo of the happy couple with their son. Post sources say they "sat for the interview three weeks ago, but it had been in the works ‘for months.’ " A People press release quotes Abedin: "It took a lot of work to get to where we are today, but I want people to know we’re a normal family." She adds: "Anthony has spent every day since [the scandal] trying to be the best dad and husband he can be. . . . I’m proud to be married to him." The magazine reports: "Weiner says he sought professional counseling but won’t go into detail except to say that it helped. Abedin concurs." Weiner tells the interviewer that 1) "I really do feel like a very, very different person," 2) "With a baby, it is pretty easy to put things into perspective," and 3) "I’m not doing anything to plan a campaign."
July 19: According to Anonymous, this is the day on which Weiner "found me on Formspring" and sent two messages, recorded as screen shots and published on the Dirty. The messages are not overtly sexual. Weiner appears to greet her and say that he has just followed her.
August: According to Anonymous, "Things were very intense" by this time, with "talks of the Chicago sex condo and having sexual conversations. We would send naked images to each other and have phone sex. Anthony Weiner would send me penis pictures from his Carlos Danger yahoo email to my Gmail." More than 70 sexually graphic messages between Anonymous and "Dangr33," undated, are later published on the Dirty, along with the exact address of the proposed sex condo.
Summer to Fall: According to the Dirty, Weiner and Anonymous "spoke on the phone daily multiple times a day for six months ... Most calls were phone sex." Richie later tells the Times that Weiner "would demand pictures almost every day" from her. Anonymous claims that "by November 2012 our relationship began to fizzle out," though they also "spoke once in December."
Nov. 7: Weiner officially returns to Twitter for the first time since his resignation. He tweets about local damage from Hurricane Sandy.
Jan. 29, 2013: The Post and Daily News report that voters have been called by a pollster testing Weiner’s favourability and his prospects for mayor or city comptroller. In early February, Weiner confirms that his political committee has spent more than $100,000 on polling.
February to March: Weiner and Abedin give interviews to The New York Times Magazine for a profile. Weiner says he has changed, though some people "just don’t have room for a second narrative about me." But he also implies that he’s still in counseling: "Now I start sentences with, ‘My therapist says.’"
April 11: On this day, according to Anonymous, Weiner "reactivated his Facebook and asked me what I thought of" the Times Magazine story. An undated screen shot shows a Facebook message from "Anthony Weiner" (with a photo of him and Abedin) asking, "are we ok? i turned my fb back on after the story to field the onslaught and to hear the feedback. well, my brother emailed me asking about you and whether i pissed you off. . . . ill call back, but just checking."
April 24: Weiner tells WABC, "The two years that I’ve had to step back have been devoted to basically two foundational things: one, being a much better husband, repairing the relationship with my wife, re-earning her trust, repairing our marriage. And two, being a good father." In an interview with WNBC, he is asked: "Since you resigned, have you been in touch with any of the women that you were in touch with before you resigned?" He answers: "Some of them have reached out to me to say things that I don’t... You know, their lives have been put upside down as well. Some of them have come forward willingly, but some of them haven’t, and they’ve got drawn into things that, frankly, they didn’t deserve. And that’s it. But we haven’t stayed in touch or anything like that." The interviewer asks: "You haven’t reinitiated conversations?" Weiner replies: "Definitely not, definitely not. I mean, I’ve basically said, ‘I thank you,’ or ‘I’m sorry.’ ... If they’ve reached out to me, I’ve apologized, and we’ve left it at that."
July 23: The Dirty publishes the screen shots from Anonymous. At a press conference, Weiner responds: "Some of the things that have been posted today are true, and some are not... Some of these things happened before my resignation. Some of them happened after. But the fact is that that was also the time that my wife and I were working through some things in our marriage. I’m glad these things are behind us." Abedin concurs: "Anthony’s made some horrible mistakes, both before he resigned from Congress and after. ... We discussed all of this before Anthony decided to run for mayor." A reporter asks: "When was the last ... text or Facebook"? Weiner replies: "I can’t say exactly. Sometime last summer, I think." He affirms that it was after the People interview. Abedin smiles and nods.
If this time line is accurate, what does it tell us? At least four things. First, Weiner and Abedin began to orchestrate Weiner’s return to politics months before he began sexting with Anonymous. During these preparations, in early 2012, Weiner seems to have still been processing his understanding of what he had done.
Second, if Weiner sat for the People interview three weeks before it was disclosed on July 18, 2012, then he initiated contact with Anonymous two weeks after that interview took place. He sat with Abedin as she told the reporter that he was "trying to be the best dad and husband he can be." He said he was a "very different person" and had a fresh perspective since their child was born. He held the baby and smiled for the camera. And then he looked up Anonymous and began sexting with her.
Third, if Weiner and Anonymous exchanged calls for six months, mostly for phone sex, that must have extended well into the fall. Even if their interactions ceased to be sexual in November, that’s well past the point ("sometime last summer") at which Weiner claims the sexting ended.
Fourth, having reinitiated contact with Anonymous in July 2012 — leading to the sexting — and again in April 2013 to check on her, Weiner proceeded to give at least two misleading TV interviews. He claimed that he had devoted the two years since his resignation to repairing his marriage and regaining his wife’s trust. In truth, by his own current reckoning, he didn’t stop sexting until more than halfway through that period, and he began to poll his prospects in the mayoral race just two months after the point at which Anonymous claims the relationship "fizzled." His comments to WNBC, stoutly denying that he had "reinitiated conversations" with his sexting targets, can be defended only on the Clintonian grounds that the interviewer asked about women he had been in touch with before his resignation. It’s clear that Weiner was not being candid.
Now, Weiner says his days of deceit are over. This time, he swears, he really is a changed man, never mind what he said in 2012. He looks sincere. And he’ll look just as sincere a year from now, when he’s giving the same excuse for what he said in 2013.
William Saletan covers science, technology and politics for Slate.