Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
A teary-eyed Anthony Weiner stood notably alone when the married Congressman faced the press earlier this week to confess he sent lewd photos to women online. Rather than stand by her husband's side, Huma Abedin, an aide to Hillary Clinton, stood in contrast to wives of disgraced politicians past and instead reported to work.
It's likely the spectacle and manner in which the information trickled out that made Abedin, 35, shy away from standing at the podium with her head-hanging hubby, according to political consultant Michael Oliva.
"I've noticed more and more that the wives aren't up there on the podium," Oliva said.
Weiner, 46, said during the press conference that he and his wife of 11 months have "no intention of splitting up over this," but said she called his actions "stupid" and was disappointed.
"The fact that his wife was not there — from a crisis management situation — is not good," said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. "You always want the spouse present. We may just be at a point where having a wife with you is played out; average people see through it."
When former Gov. Eliot Spitzer confessed in October 2008 to frequenting prostitutes and violating his "own sense of right and wrong," wife Silda Wall Spitzer stood by his side.
And New Jersey ex-Gov. James McGreevey had his wife, Dina, by his side when he announced at an August 2004 press conference that he was "a gay American."
In an effort to head off any investigative digging, former Gov. David Paterson and his wife Michelle admitted they had both had affairs soon after Paterson was sworn into office in 2008 following Spitzer's resignation.
But in several other cases, the wives of cheating husbands have avoided the televised confession. The most high profile politician, ex-president Bill Clinton, served his mea culpa during prime time on national television. His wife, Hillary, did not appear with him.
When South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford confessed to having an affair with a South American woman in 2009, his wife, Jenny Sanford, was absent.
In 2009, Sen. John Ensign of Nevada confessed to having an affair with a staffer, and gave a press conference, sans his wife, Darlene. In 2007, Idaho Sen. Larry Craig retracted his guilty plea to lewd behavior in a men's bathroom, and said he was sad for the original decision. He stood, without his wife, at a news conference.
"Eliot Spitzer — he admitted it right away, and he resigned. Because it was such a spectacle with Anthony Weiner, it compounded the embarrassment for her [Abedin]," said political consultant Oliva. "If he'd come clean and admitted he didn’t have sexual relations with the woman she probably would’ve been up there with him."
Oliva said he believes that Weiner has cultivated an image as an independent voice in Washington, the lone congressman taking tough stances on Medicare and the single payer public option.
"He thrived on the fact that he was the only one saying certain things—where once he looked like he was standing out, he now looks alone," he said.