She stood there while her husband spoke about his sexual transgressions. Her hair tied in a loose pony tail, nervously fidgeting, she flashed the obligatory smile at the high-profile mayoral candidate for New York City. As he calmly and casually brushed off the latest of his sexting allegations, she played the role of dutiful wife. Except, as much as she wanted to put on a brave face, she looked like a dear caught in the headlights.
Oh, Huma Abedin. What happened to you?
You were once a rising star in the Clinton administration. You were among those named in Time Magazine‘s 2011 “40 Under 40” as a new generation of civic leaders and one of the ones to watch in American politics. In that feature, you stared straight into the camera, a megawatt smile; hand defiantly on your hip, the world at your feet.
How things have changed.
As the embattled wife of Anthony Weiner, you seemed a shadow of your former self during the hastily arranged press conference. The pawn in the latest installment of a quickly organized crisis communications plan to deflect the heat off of your husband’s mayoral candidacy.
Your husband deftly trotted out all the appropriate and carefully crafted buzz phrases emphasizing regret, redemption and forgiveness. And apparently, you have bought into all of this.
Then, in true TV drama fashion, the mayoral wannabe turned the microphone over to you.
This is where fiction blurred into reality. As the hot lights from the media’s cameras melted away any façade of bravado, you read the words that any script writer (or issues management consultant) could have written: “Our marriage has had its ups and downs…it took a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy.
“I love him, I forgive him and I believe in him.”
Essentially you decided to stand by your man. I recall in the early days of Bill Clinton’s first run for the US presidency, your former boss, mentor and friend, Hillary Clinton, had to do the same thing on the TV news show, 60 Minutes. She was there to answer questions about the 12-year extramarital affair her husband had with Gennifer Flowers.
“I’m not sitting here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette,” Hillary famously told Steve Kroft in that 1992 interview. “I’m sitting here because I love him and I respect him.”
What may seem like a similar performance is anything but; on her own, Hilary would have done just fine. But by sticking with a presidential candidate, she had something more to gain.
You? Not so much.
Standing by your man is the last thing you should be doing here. It’s demoralizing and disheartening to know there’s no price to pay for publicly cheating on your wife. Even the guy infamously known as “Client 9” is entering the political arena again.
I fail to understand what happens to strong, successful women when they link their lives with strong successful men – who end up having no compunction about publicly shaming their wives to save their own political ambitions.
The worst part? We as women are complicit. Is it the fear of starting over? Of destroying the family unit? Or is it a badge of honour to display our capacity for forgiveness?
At the end of the press conference, while the media was clamoring to be heard, one reporter called out: “Why should we trust your judgment Anthony Weiner?”
The question never got answered. Not by your husband. Nor you.
And that was a shame.
PR consultant Elissa Freeman brings more than 25 years of communications experience to the pages of The Broad Side. Named one of Twitters Top 52 PR pros and Top 75 Badass Females, the Toronto, Canada-based Freeman is also a contributor to PR Daily/PR Daily Europe and is a guest columnist at Canada.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @elissapr.