Tag Archives: anthony weiner

‘Weiner’ is riveting fly-on-the-wall filmmaking

“Weiner” is the compulsively watchable new film about Anthony Weiner and the implosion of his 2013 New York mayoral run amid a revival of his sexting scandal.

Director Josh Kriegman once worked for Weiner, who was forced to resign his congressional seat in 2011. And Weiner clearly hoped Kriegman and co-director Elyse Steinberg would be documenting an inspiring comeback.

At first, it seemed like they were, as the charismatic Weiner chipped away at public skepticism (if not the media’s) and climbed to the top of the polls. Then it all came crashing down, as more lurid photos and text exchanges emerged, some that occurred after Weiner’s resignation. And for some reason, Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin — a longtime top aide to Hillary Clinton, and current vice chair of her presidential campaign — let the filmmakers keep going.

As Kriegman himself asks at one low point, inches away from the miserable couple in their own kitchen:

“Why are you letting me film this?”

Why, indeed. But it makes for riveting filmmaking — as a portrait of a campaign in crisis, of a fascinatingly flawed politician, and especially of a marriage. Watch Abedin’s face as she stares at Weiner on the day the scandal breaks anew, disappointed and stunned, with no words spoken and none necessary.

We begin with a chastened Weiner, at the end of the race, reflecting: “I guess the punchline is true about me. I did the things,” he acknowledges. But he adds, sadly: “I did a lot of other things, too.”

And the film, which seeks neither to judge nor ignore Weiner’s actions, sets out to show it. A prelude includes footage of Weiner’s impassioned speeches in Congress, on behalf of 9/11 responders, for example. We see why voters liked him. Then we see that Twitter image of bulging underwear, the humiliating media coverage, the resignation.

Two years later, though, Weiner’s ready to try again. The early days of his mayoral campaign are encouraging. We see Abedin smiling, laughing, and quipping lightheartedly to her husband in an elevator: “I’m not crazy about those pants.”

We meet the campaign’s energetic and loyal young volunteers. We see the couple making fundraising calls, Abedin expertly buttering up her contacts, and Weiner exclaiming “Kaching!” when she succeeds. Suddenly Weiner’s leading in the polls.

And then the other shoe drops. We see campaign staffers in battle mode. Abedin’s face is drained of its smile — for the rest of the film. Nervously, she tells a packed news conference that she loves her husband, and they’re moving forward.

But of course they can’t. Weiner’s besieged with scandal questions. We watch a painful meeting in which campaign staffers express their hurt. Abedin, ever the pragmatist, suggests to Weiner’s visibly upset top aide that when she exits the building, “You will look happy” — lest reporters see her crying.

Can it get worse? Yep. After a painful, combative TV interview, Weiner watches at home and laughs. Abedin stares. “Why are you laughing?” she asks. “This is crazy.” Asked later how she’s doing, she replies: “It’s like living a nightmare.”

Then on Election Day (spoiler alert: he loses!) Weiner’s erstwhile sexting partner, Sydney Leathers, seeks to confront him. Aides conspire to avoid her by detouring through a McDonalds. In an excruciating exchange, Abedin is heard saying to her husband: “I am not going to face the indignity of being accosted by this woman.”

Weiner and Abedin apparently haven’t seen the film. One wonders if now, they regret allowing the directors such intimate access. Either way, the filmmakers have done a compelling job as flies on that wall.

“Weiner,” an IFC Films release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America “for language and some sexual material.” Running time: 100 minutes. Three stars out of four.

MPAA definition for R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

De Blasio places 1st in NYC mayoral primary, then Thompson, then Quinn

New York City’s wild mayoral primary campaign hurtled to the voting booth on Sept. 10 as New Yorkers began the process of replacing the man who has led their city for 12 years.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg never offered an endorsement in the race, but the primary campaigns largely were defined by his legacy. The Republican mayoral hopefuls were largely promising to maintain his policies, while the Democrats offered a sharply different approach.

Public advocate Bill de Blasio, pitched himself as the cleanest break with the current administration. And while just weeks ago his campaign was an afterthought, he surged to 40 percent – or close to it – in the Democratic primary held on Tuesday.

Early Sept. 11, it appeared he may still face a runoff on Oct. 1. With about 98 percent of the precincts counted early Sept. 11, de Blasio had 40.2 percent of the vote. If he says above 40 percent, he wins the nomination. If he falls below, he faces a runoff with former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, who was running second with 26 percent.

De Blasio’s rise was as sudden as it was unexpected. He benefited from placing his interracial family at the heart of his campaign, connecting with voters over the need for NYPD reforms, and by drawing away voters from Anthony Weiner supporters following the former congressman’s latest sexting scandal.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who was bidding to become the city’s first female and first openly gay mayor, was in third with about 16 percent of the vote. She had led the polls for most of the year but saw support disappear as her rivals have repeatedly linked her to the bitter debate to let Bloomberg run for a third term in 2009.

The mayor’s opponent that year was Thompson, who stunned the political world by nearly upsetting the billionaire incumbent. The race’s lone African-American, Thompson had said he is counting on winning the bulk of black and Latino voters to propel him to the runoff.

In a message to supporters of Quinn’s campaign through the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, president and CEO Chuck Wolfe said on Sept. 10, “There’s no sugar-coating what an emotional loss this is for her, her many supporters and all of us here at the Victory Fund.

 I’ve known Chris for a long time. She has been a remarkably effective and passionate advocate for LGBT equality and, most importantly, for everyone who calls New York City home. Few people are as committed to anything as Chris is to New York, but I can tell you that all of us at Victory were behind this campaign with all our hearts. We are grateful that you stood with us.

Comptroller John Liu was bidding to become the city’s first Asian-American mayor but has been dogged by a fundraising scandal. He came in at about 7 percent, just ahead of Weiner.

Republicans will look to continue an improbable winning streak in the general election. Though outnumbered by Democrats in the city 6-to-1, the GOP has won the last five mayoral elections. (Bloomberg was an independent running on the Republican line four years ago.)

Joe Lhota, the former MTA chairman who received acclaim for steering the transit agency through Superstorm Sandy last fall, led the polls all campaign and finished first.

Poll: De Blasio surges in New York City primary

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has surged to a commanding lead in the city’s Democratic mayoral primary, raising for the first time all campaign the possibility that a runoff may not be needed to pick a nominee.

A poll from Quinnipiac University shows that de Blasio is the choice of 43 percent of likely Democratic voters, the highest mark any candidate has tallied all year. It also is the first time that any candidate has passed the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff; if no one passes that mark, the top two finishers in the Sept. 10 primary advance to a showdown three weeks later.

Former comptroller Bill Thompson places a distance second at 20 percent, according to the poll, which was released on Sept. 3. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is at 18 percent.

De Blasio, who’s running on a more liberal platform than Quinn and Thompson, also sports huge leads in hypothetical run-off matchups with them. He would beat Quinn 66 percent to 25 percent and Thompson 56 percent to 36 percent, according to the poll.

Ex-congressman Anthony Weiner, a former front-runner whose support collapsed amid a new sexting scandal, is fourth at 7 percent. Comptroller John Liu is at 4 percent.

De Blasio’s support jumped from 36 percent in a Quinnipiac poll taken less than a week ago. Momentum for de Blasio, who’s white, appears connected to an ad campaign centered on his interracial family, strong debate performances and Weiner’s collapse.

He leads Quinn, who’s trying to be the city’s first female mayor and first openly gay mayor, among women 44 percent to 19 percent. And he leads Thompson, the race’s lone black candidate, 47 percent to 25 percent among black voters.

The final Democratic debate was held on Sept. 3, hours after the poll’s release.

The poll surveyed 750 likely Democratic primary voters. The margin of error is 3.6 percentage points.

On the Republican aide, ex-Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Joe Lhota, a deputy under former mayor Rudy Giuliani, was the choice of 48 percent of likely Republican primary voters. He has commanding leads over grocery magnate John Catsimatidis, who’s at 24 percent, and nonprofit executive George McDonald, at 10 percent.

The survey of 101 likely Republican voters had a margin of error of 9.8 percentage points.

Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg is serving the last of three consecutive terms.

Kathy Griffin dishes the dirt en route to Milwaukee

What is it about female comedians and their gays? There’s comedy godmother Joan Rivers and queer comic Margaret Cho, both of whom make a point of speaking directly to their beloved and adoring gay audiences.  And then there’s comedy diva Kathy Griffin. Combining her love for the gays (hello, Anderson Cooper) and gossip, Griffin has created a brand of comedy that is both an homage to Rivers and outrageously original. She’s easily the most irreverent comic onstage, male or female.

One of the hardest-working women in show business, Griffin is busy setting and breaking her own records, keeping us in stitches all the while. I spoke with Griffin earlier this month. 

Kathy, you headlined Milwaukee PrideFest a few years ago and you have an upcoming date in Milwaukee at The Riverside. Being a Great Lakes region native, do you have a special affinity for Wisconsin?

Kathy Griffin: Uh … yes! And let’s not forget that Liberace is also from there. I watched “Behind The Candelabra” three times in one day. I do feel a connection. Also, you should know that when I played Milwaukee Pride, it was outdoors, it was hot as balls, and I will never forget the dancing, gay gentleman (who) passed out in front of the stage. None of the gays around him gave a shit. They just kept dancing and waited for him to come to.

That’s Midwestern hospitality.

Exactly. They were just waiting him out. “Oh, he’ll be fine, girl.”

Growing up in the Chicago area, did you visit any of Wisconsin’s tourist attractions?

Don’t insult me. What, you think I’m gonna not go to the Dells? First of all, the Dells were for rich people. We went one time, and we had to save up for it. I think my 93-year-old alcoholic mother is still complaining about (in Maggie Griffin’s voice) “all the goddamn money it cost to take you goddamn kids to the Wisconsin Dells and all you did was bitch about it the whole goddamn time.”

Since Milwaukee is the Dairy State, do you have a favorite dairy product? 

I just enjoy all the bad stuff. Real ice cream made with cream. Remember ice milk? That was such BS! We want real old timey ice cream and I don’t care if I die for it.

In June, you took part in Joan Rivers’ 80th birthday festivities. As the rightful heir to Rivers’ comedy crown, what does it mean to have a relationship with the grand dame of comedy?

I’m so glad you said that because I was also in her brilliantly done documentaåry, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.” I saw her last weekend in Montréal. We performed two days apart, so we stayed to hang out with each other. I can’t go on enough about her. She really is an inspiration. I think a lot of people don’t quite understand the significance of her contributions to women in comedy. Besides just being a sweet gal and really uncensored – I’m telling you, I’m like a nun compared to her. We have fun together, and she’s a true friend and I really love and appreciate her. Her act just goes there. The reason she’s an inspiration is at 80 years old is she just doesn’t give
a blank. That’s what I think is freeing and inspiring about her act, and that’s what I try to do. Just go out there, balls out, yeah, I’m going to offend people, maybe have walkouts, but I feel like if you go to a night of comedy you want to see someone just let it loose.

Would you like to still be doing comedy at 80?

Absolutely! No doubt about it! I was watching Joan – not only did she do a kick-ass act, but she does it in heels. I’m down to flats at 52. Yes, I’m going to die onstage. Although, I probably will be killed by someone from the tea party.

I understand congratulations are also in order for you.

Thank you! I recently shattered the record for the most standup comedy specials recorded of any kind – TV, CD – of any comedian, male or female, in history. I’m gearing up in Milwaukee for my next one, which I’m going to tape in November. So I will shatter my own record. I just love doing standup. It’s my favorite thing in the world.

We do get the sense from watching you that you are enjoying it. It’s not work for you.

Especially the live shows, because there’s no censorship. As much as I love Bravo, or whoever broadcasts my specials, live you can really go places you can’t go on TV. I think that’s why people who’ve seen me before will come see me again, because they know I’m going to give them a completely new show, even if you just saw me a year ago.

Is Anthony Weiner a gift to comics everywhere?

I am pro-Weiner. First of all, I am pro-penis. I’m going to be honest, I hate men, except for gays. I don’t know if you’ve met one (straight men), but they’re just terrible. Then I see the penis and this glaze comes over me. I can’t think straight. I’m the worst. I’m like a gay guy. I really am. But I actually liked Anthony Weiner as a congressman. I thought that he was very
passionate. I was watching that CNN special “Our Nixon.” When you think about Watergate, and I know I’m dating myself, and you think about the president of United States OK’ing a break-in of Daniel Ellsberg’s shrink’s office, who gives a shit about one sext to some girl going to school in Seattle? 

If you had a sexting handle, like Weiner’s Carlos Danger, what would it be?

Mine would be Hello Anderson. Anderson Cooper is the only person that I sext. Number one, the obvious reason being that he doesn’t care. Number two, I like to sext him when he’s on the air doing a serious news story. That’s when I feel it’s the most appropriate. I actually just did it this week. You can tweet him and ask him.

Who do you think will be the next politician to implode?

I’m hoping for someone from the tea party. They seem to be doing it themselves. I think Rand and Ron Paul are getting a free ride I’m not enjoying. I’d like to see them go down. I’m an old-school, dyed-in-the-wool liberal, so I probably just lost a bunch of ticket sales because of that. God forbid you should have your own opinion in this country.


Kathy Griffin performs at The Riverside in Milwaukee on Sept. 13. She’s at Overture Hall in Madison on Sept. 14 (http://overturecenter.com/production/kathy-griffin).

‘Good Wife’ star empathizes with Weiner’s spouse

Julianna Margulies says playing a wronged political wife on TV gives her compassion for what Anthony Weiner’s spouse is going through.

Watching Huma Abedin stand by New York mayoral candidate Weiner aka Carlos Danger at a recent news conference reminded Margulies of how she played a similar scene in “The Good Wife” pilot.

Marguilies says she feels empathy for Abedin, a former aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton, because people are quick to judge and comment.

But “The Good Wife” star said sexting scandals like the one involving Weiner are the gift that keeps on giving for the CBS drama, keeping the show fresh.

It’s a reaction that makes her feel slightly guilty, Margulies told the Television Critics Association on Monday.

“The Good Wife” starts its fifth season Sept. 29 on CBS.

Anthony Weiner proposed three-way with another man

Anthony Weiner proposed a threesome with one of his female texting pals and another man, RadarOnline.com reported today.

According to the website, Weiner sent the request to Traci Nobles in the midst of his texting and tweeting adventures that eventually forced him to resign his congressional seat in June. The revelation came from conversation excerpts that Radar obtained from Nobles’ proposal for a tell-all book.

After proposing a threesome, Weiner told Nobles, “I’m not really talking about other chicks… How about with another guy?”

“Hmmmm, haven’t done it before,” Nobles said.

“It can be hot,” Weiner replies.

“Are you turned on by other guys?” Nobles asked.

“Well it depends on the guy, but generally yes,” Weiner said.

This isn’t the first time details from Nobles’ book proposal have gone public, New York Post reported.

In October, news surfaced that Weiner boasted that he masturbated in House restrooms and expressed frustration about his “backwards thinking” Muslim in-laws.

“Omg. I didn’t think I could get any harder,” read one Weiner message provided by Nobles.

Weiner claimed to do much of his sexting from his Washington office and would take care of sexual urges in the bathroom.

“It’s a big office and you know that’s not the only thing here that’s big,” Weiner wrote.

Last week, Weiner, 47, and wife Huma Abedin announced the arrival of a baby boy.

GOP official apologizes for sending underwear pic

A Republican official in Kenner City, La., said he’s asked for “God’s mercy” after a photo of him in his underwear turned up in the city’s computer system.

City Councilman Joe Stagni, 47, sent the picture to an employee with whom he was having an extramarital affair, he acknowledged. It was attached to a Dec. 23, 2009, text message from his phone to his internal auditor Annamaria Pizzolato with the subject line, “I’m n trouble-serious conversation wwife.” The city’s mayor fired Pizzolato without explanation in September 2010.

Nola.com reports that city officials are mostly unperturbed by the incident. U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned June 21 after pressure from the Democratic Party following revelations of a sexting scandal.

Stagni said he asked for “God’s mercy and forgiveness.”

“I apologized to my wife and family and asked for their forgiveness as well. My actions and bad judgment had nothing to do with my duties and responsibilities as a public official. They were private acts, but I take full responsibility for my irresponsible behavior. This matter has been a painful experience for my family, and I pray that everyone will allow our family to continue to heal. I am sorry.”

Weiner’s woes make gay woman frontrunner for New York mayor

There are many things that Rep. Anthony Weiner was never shy about, and one was telling people he hoped to become New York City’s mayor.

But with a 2013 candidacy all but out of the picture for the embattled Democrat, and with Mayor Michael Bloomberg approaching the halfway mark of his third and final term, Weiner’s Internet sex scandal has reshaped the political fight already simmering beneath the surface of New York City politics. It has even led a celebrity, “30 Rock” actor Alec Baldwin, to publicly toy with the idea of jumping in to the game.

Weiner “combined appeal to striving, middle-class people in the outer boroughs with the ideological left,” many of them wealthier Manhattanites, said Hunter College political science professor Kenneth Sherrill. “That’s a very hard combination to pull off.”

More than half of city voters saying in a recent poll that Weiner shouldn’t make a City Hall bid, leaving up for grabs the broad swath of votes that seemed destined for the Queens congressman.

A seven-term Democrat, Weiner acknowledged this week that he sent sexually explicit messages over Twitter to six women over the past three years and then lying about it. He got married last year; his wife is pregnant with the couple’s first child.

Weiner announced Saturday he was entering professional treatment at an undisclosed location and requested a leave of absence from Congress amid pressure to resign.

Spokeswoman Risa Heller said in a statement that Weiner left home “to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person. In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well.”

The statement did not say where he would receive treatment or what type was involved. A day earlier, Weiner acknowledged he had exchanged online messages with a 17-year-old girl in Delaware. He said nothing improper had passed between the two of them.

It’s debatable who could most benefit from Weiner’s downfall. Sherrill argues that one of those with the most to gain is Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who runs the risk of fading into the background if the race becomes crowded with white male candidates. Now he could gain supporters from the ranks of Weiner fans who loved the congressman for his very public and very loud opposition to Republicans on national issues. Stringer, the professor said, can be similarly aggressive and authentic.

“You see him, you hear him, you say, ‘That’s a New Yorker,’ as you do with Weiner,” Sherrill said.

City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, the 2009 Democratic nominee for mayor, could also win support from those same progressives.

Many of Weiner’s middle-class supporters living outside of Manhattan could shift to current Comptroller John Liu, a union ally who like Weiner is based in Queens, and who enjoys strong support among the Asian community there, Sherrill said. De Blasio, too, is closely allied with the city’s unions and lives in Brooklyn, where Weiner grew up and has many supporters. Meanwhile, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s work on housing issues and her own middle-class background could also win her some of those outer-borough votes.

Weiner’s scandal may have prompted one politician into action. Though Thompson had said he intended to run again, he long remained the only presumptive candidate who hadn’t started fundraising. But on Friday, he formally registered with the city Campaign Finance Board as a mayoral candidate.

Thompson has some catching up to do. As of January, Weiner had raised $5.1 million, Quinn had raised $3.2 million and Stringer had raised $1.1 million. Liu and de Blasio trailed with $513,000 and $393,000, respectively.

“The money race is the key indicator now,” said Baruch College politics professor Doug Muzzio, although he cautioned it is still very early and the race likely won’t head into full swing until after the 2012 federal elections.

By that standard, Quinn is now the front-runner. The historic nature of her as-yet-undeclared campaign – if elected, she would be the first openly gay and the first female mayor – could further help her as she raises more. Roughly one-third of her campaign donations have come from outside of the city.

Still, Quinn is faced with walking a tricky line. Political insiders say she must retain the mayor’s support – the two often appear together at events, and Bloomberg praises her work – yet distance herself from the Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-independent as he weathers what several analysts have termed third-term fatigue among dissatisfied voters.

Beyond that core fivesome, a Weiner exit could possibly bring unexpected faces into the game.

Baldwin has long professed his interest in running for office, and days ago he queried his Twitter followers, “Can Weiner still be mayor in 2013?”

In response to reports that Baldwin himself was considering entering the race because of Weiner’s apparent departure, the actor said on Twitter: “It’s a long way till November of 2013.”

Baldwin has said he doesn’t expect to continue with “30 Rock” past 2012, but if he decides to make a run for the city’s top job, he will have to change addresses. He has long claimed residency in the wealthy Long Island enclave of East Hampton, although he has also kept a home in New York City since the 1980s. He now owns an apartment on the Upper West Side.

Some have suggested that former Gov. Eliot Spitzer could join the race, although his own sex scandal might play poorly following Weiner’s. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has also been mentioned as a possibility, though he has said he prefers his current job.

Analysts say there’s a distant possibility that Weiner himself could still join the mayoral fray. After all, last time around Thompson came very close to beating Bloomberg, who outspent him more than 10-to-1, after the Democrat raised $6.1 million before matching funds, little more than what Weiner already has in the bank.

“There’s nothing impossible in politics,” said Muzzio. But, he added, “This is as close as you’re going to get.”



Benefits bill introduced

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and U.S. Rep.  Anthony Weiner recently introduced legislation intended to equalize COBRA benefits for same-sex couples and their families.

COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, guarantees continued health coverage to qualified beneficiaries of an employer health plan. COBRA was intended to help families cover gaps in health insurance – from the date one job ends to when benefits at a new job kick in.

But Boxer, a Democrat from California, and Weiner, a Democrat from New York, say a fix is needed.

The act doesn’t protect same-sex couples and their children. COBRA mandates that employees, their spouses and their dependent children can continue their health coverage, but federal law does not recognize gay marriages or partnerships.

“All of our families deserve equal access to health insurance,” Boxer said. “This bill would help ensure that domestic partners and their families will be able to keep their health coverage if their partner loses their job.”

Weiner wants to end ban on gay blood donors

NEW YORK (AP) — Some New York lawmakers are calling for an end to a federal ban on blood donations by gay men.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner said Saturday that overturning the prohibition could save lives at times when the city’s blood supplies run low.

The Food and Drug Administration prohibits men who have sex with men from donating blood, regardless of their HIV status. The ban was put in place in 1983. Weiner says it was implemented amid ignorance of how the virus is transmitted.

The Democrat says the policy doesn’t make blood any safer.

On Thursday a group of 18 U.S. senators called for changes in the law, including New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand.