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NY Times Author 'Assumed' Weiner Had Stopped Sexting

The author of the NY Times profile that cleared the way for Anthony Weiner to enter the mayoral race in NYC never thought to ask Weiner if that part of his life was behind him. An editor claims this was because Weiner wasn't seen as a candidate at the time, despite an earlier piece in the Times noting he might want to run for mayor.

Erik Wemple points out the obvious flaw in an article that was considered a strong example of long-form journalism until it's central premise--that there was a new Anthony Weiner--turned out to be false.

Reading through the story, it’s clear that Van Meter’s piece was premised on the notion that Weiner’s self-destructive online activities had long, long since ceased. Had he pushed the politico on just when he gave up his lewd relationships with other women on the Internet, Van Meter’s recorder would have scored some precious words from Weiner. Or perhaps even a prolonged period of silence. When asked about that point, Van Meter replied via Facebook message: “Never even occurred to me to ask! I just assumed it had stopped when he got caught, lost his job and started therapy to save his marriage.”

Hugo Lindgren, the editor of the NY Times magazine, takes blame for failing to insure the question was asked. He tells Wemple "We weren’t looking at him as a political figure at the time."

This is almost certainly nonsense if Van Meter or Lindgren read their own paper. Back in July of 2012, about the time Weiner was starting his relationship with Sydney Leathers, the NY Times ran a piece headlined "Anthony Weiner longs for a second chance in politics, friends say."

An article in The New York Post, taking note of expenditures reported in a recent campaign filing and his deadline for receiving matching funds, suggested that Mr. Weiner was considering running for public advocate or even mayor next year.

[...]

If nothing else, the buzz showed that Mr. Weiner was still capable of generating chatter in a mayoral field that seems to be solidifying despite its lack of star power.

With his war chest, Mr. Weiner would have an edge over several of the likely Democratic candidates. William C. Thompson Jr., for instance, a former comptroller and a declared mayoral candidate, has raised only $1.5 million for the race so far, according to a statement by his campaign on Sunday.

It's a bit of a stretch to claim that they did this entire interview and had no idea Weiner might see it as part of his political comeback. No one is that naive.

Update: According to the NY Times, Weiner's rivals in the race recognized his profile as a statement that he was thinking about getting in:

As his would-be rivals debated the seriousness of his deliberations (which remains unknown) and the odds he could prevail (which they doubted), they seemed to be uneasily calculating the impact of his potential candidacy on their own place in a large and unsettled field.

Each seemed to have absorbed Mr. Weiner’s declaration, in a New York Times Magazine article that was published online on Wednesday, that he wanted to “ask people for a second chance,” had commissioned polls to assess his chances in the mayoral race and believed that “it’s now or maybe never for me, in terms of running for something.”

So people in the race read the NY Times profile and quickly determined Weiner was thinking about running. But the editor of the piece now says he did not see Weiner as a "political figure" at the time. What could account for this divergence of opinion?


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