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Anthony Weiner tours Sandy damaged Staten Island

July 26, 2013 4:52:09 PM PDT
New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner met with Superstorm Sandy victims Friday on Staten Island as he tried to move past the sexting scandal threatening to derail his political comeback attempt.

The former congressman traveled to the furthest reaches of the city to tour the ruined home of Joseph Cardinale, a 14-year resident of a beachfront neighborhood still hurting from the storm's deadly tidal surge. The house, overgrown and stripped to the studs, will have to be torn down and Cardinale is upset about how difficult it has been to rebuild.

Weiner said he visited the neighborhood because he wanted to bring attention to the plight of storm victims.

"One of the reasons why we're here today is that I knew that now, you're gonna come with me. And you should see this," he told reporters. "There is this notion because the cameras had left, because some of the headlines changed, that the problem was solved. But for many, many people, they are still dealing with the challenge."

But even in that setting he couldn't escape the scandal. After walking through the destroyed house and meeting several neighbors who also shared their Sandy horror stories, he was confronted by retired schoolteacher Peg Brunda.

"I don't quite understand how you would feel you'd have the moral authority, as the head administrator in this city, to oversee employees, when your standard of conduct is so much lower than the standard of conduct that is expected of us," said Brunda.

Weiner asked whether she would vote for him. Brunda said no.

"I want to let your neighbors make their decisions for themselves," Weiner said.

Just Thursday, the married Democrat also said he supposed he'd had sexually charged exchanges with a total of six to 10 women; he'd previously capped that number at six.

Weiner, the former congressman who resigned in 2011 after the first batch of sexts surfaced, is running for New York mayor and had been near the top of most polls of the Democratic primary race until the latest furor over his behavior began this week when the gossip website The Dirty posted explicit messages that a woman said she and Weiner sent each other starting in July 2012.

The scandal got seamier Thursday when the site posted an unredacted crotch shot that it said Weiner sent to a woman last year.

When reporters attempted to pin down the evasive Weiner as to the number of women with whom he had exchanged illicit messages, he delivered a rambling response before settling on "six to 10, I suppose." His campaign later clarified that of that total, Weiner corresponded with three of them after leaving office.

Weiner said he was still "working with people" to get help dealing with his penchant for X-rated online flirting, but he disputed that it's an addiction.

"I don't believe that it is. The people that I am working with don't believe that it is," he told reporters.

"The point is that it's behind me," he said. "I have worked through these things."

The woman who claims to have engaged in the online sex chats with Weiner, 23-year-old Sydney Leathers, confirmed her identity Thursday and told "Inside Edition" that Weiner disgusted her.

"He's not who I thought he was," she told the show.

She said Weiner told her that he loved her and she reciprocated. Asked what advice she would give the embattled mayoral candidate, she said, "Stop lying, stop embarrassing his wife and get help."

Leathers, who hails from Mount Carmel, Ill., and Princeton, Ind., said Weiner started corresponding with her last July, more than a year after he stepped down from Congress and within weeks of a glowing People magazine cover story about his repaired marriage to Hillary Rodham Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

While Weiner says he bets voters care more about their futures than his past, some appear to have deserted him in the first poll taken entirely after his latest indiscretions were revealed.

Before the revelations, Weiner was leading most polls gauging the primary race. But a new poll showed he fell behind City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the crowded Democratic field.

She leads him 25 percent to 16 percent among registered Democratic voters, according to the poll, which surveyed 551 such voters Wednesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. It found Weiner roughly even with city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, both at 14 percent; results were similar among likely Democratic voters.

The poll also found 55 percent of registered Democrats now have an unfavorable impression of Weiner, while 30 percent see him favorably. The numbers were nearly the reverse of a June poll by the same entities, which tallied a 52-36 percent favorable-to-unfavorable split then.

"New York City Democrats were willing to give Anthony Weiner a second chance but are reluctant to excuse his behavior now," Marist College polling director Lee Miringoff said in an analysis of the results.

Still, Democratic voters are roughly evenly split on whether he should drop out of the race, and on whether his digital dalliances will affect their votes.

Those who have donated to his campaign were also conflicted.

Paula Corsi, 46, of Queens, gave $35 to Weiner at a fundraiser June 25. She said she is concerned about this week's revelations but believes Weiner has good ideas and wants him to stay in the race.

"If the people really don't want him to run they'll tell him in September" in the primary, she said. "Let the voters decide."

But architect Charles Thanhauser, 61, said he regrets giving Weiner $100.

"The continuing texting a year after he resigned from Congress makes me think there's something extremely wrong with him," said Thanhauser, of Manhattan. "It makes me question his motives in running for office. It makes me question his judgment."

Weiner has been urged to quit the race by newspaper editorial boards some rivals. And on Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called his behavior "reprehensible" and "disrespectful of women." But she said it was up to him to decide whether he should leave the mayor's race.


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