In every way, last night’s Bronx mayoral forum, like everywhere else since he admitted Tuesday to continuing his infamous online affairs, was reminiscent of the first days on the campaign trail for Anthony Weiner.
Mr. Weiner, trying to keep calm, was in the eye of a media storm.
Cameramen had staked out a road leading to the auditorium’s entrance, waiting to ambush him with questions about the controversy. When he emerged, a frenzied scrum swarmed, overshadowing rivals who openly complained about the lack of coverage lent to the campaign issues they cherish.
Even during the forum itself, Mr. Weiner’s recently-revealed indiscretions popped up, including a shot from rival long-shot candidate Erick Salgado, who brought up Mr. Weiner’s alleged “Carlos Danger” moniker.
“Using a Latino name like Carlito Peligro, what in the world was he thinking?” quipped Mr. Salgado at one point, using the Spanish word for “danger.” “Always a Latino, the one who gets the blame. And yes, there is a Latino running in this race–and his name is not ‘Carlito Danger.’”
And there was plenty of awkwardness when Mr. Weiner was asked whether he prefers Twitter or Facebook. “Our campaign’s on Twitter,” Mr. Weiner said after the audience laughed loudly.
Afterwards, Mr. Weiner was forced to explain his campaign’s continued existence while, of course, being mobbed by reporters.
“I don’t want to be in a position of refuting what anonymous people through a blog said,” Mr. Weiner told Politicker when asked why he dodges specific questions about his behavior. “They have a right to say whatever they want, I brought that upon myself. I’m not going to get into a back and forth with an anonymous person who obviously doesn’t want to become public. They have every right in the world to say whatever they want to, or at least whatever they want. Obviously, I’m not going to do it and I’m not going to try to litigate this.”
“What’s true is true,” he added, as violin music ironically played from the auditorium’s speakers. “The facts have not changed that what I did was wrong. I dishonored my wife and compounded it by being dishonest with the media.”
Despite the challenges his campaign now faces, Weiner volunteer numbers matched, or even surpassed, his opponents’. Supporters of Comptroller John Liu and former Comptroller Bill Thompson, through a lot of chanting, tried to reclaim the attention of press and passerby alike. Eager, even a bit weary, the city’s press corps milled around as Mr. Thompson strode down the street. Then came Mr. Liu–who earlier that day compared the press to “puppy dogs” in their Weiner coverage–and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
All three, somewhat to their chagrin, were forced to talk only about Mr. Weiner and not themselves. Mr. Thompson called for Mr. Weiner to step out of the race. “This has become a distraction and a continual distraction and it’s getting worse … I think that consensus has emerged across the city that Anthony should not run. And I agree with that,” said Mr. Thompson. Mr. de Blasio, who has an online petition calling on Mr. Weiner to exit the race, again lamented the “distraction.”
After a long wait, Mr. Weiner emerged at the end of the roadway and reporters stampeded toward him, jockeying for position in the cloud of arms, legs, cameras and recorders. As school security shouted to clear the way, Mr. Weiner, his aides in tow, sped inside, taking no questions.
The press would have to wait again for Mr. Weiner and watch the forum.