Anthony Weiner, known to spar with the occasional heckler, got into his biggest shouting match to date today.
After an Orthodox Jewish man called Mr. Weiner a “scumbag” as he was leaving a Boro Park bakery, the mayoral hopeful furiously spun around to confront the voter.
“Very nice, very nice, in front of kids. That’s a charming guy right there,” Mr. Weiner, chewing on cookies, uttered during one of several campaign stops on a visit to the neighborhood on the eve of the Jewish New Year.
“You are disgusting, disgusting,” the man, Saul Kessler, replied, referencing the sexting scandal that forced Mr. Weiner to resign from Congress and continues to engulf his campaign.
But Mr. Weiner, sagging in the polls as Election Day rapidly approaches, was not interested in brushing aside Mr. Kessler.
“Yeah, it takes one to know one, jackass,” Mr. Weiner shot back from the bakery’s doorway. “What’s that? What’s that? You wait until I walk out to say anything. That’s courage, that’s courage!”
Against the wishes of his aides, Mr. Weiner waded back into the packed bakery to confront Mr. Kessler, who later identified himself as a real estate manager from Far Rockaway.
“You have the nerve to walk around in public,” Mr. Kessler began.
“You’re a perfect person? You’re my judge?” Mr. Weiner asked, face to face with Mr. Kessler, as patrons gawked and cameras clicked away. “What rabbi taught you that you’re my judge?”
“I’m not running for office; I’m not out there in the public,” Mr. Kessler fired back. “Think about your wife. How could you take the person you’re closest to and trusts you and betray her?” Mr. Kessler questioned, nearly as enraged as Mr. Weiner.
The men continued to shout at each other, with Mr. Weiner still clutching the cheese Danish and cookies he had calmly purchased minutes before.
“You don’t get to judge me, because you have shown no signs of being superior to me and you are not my God!” Mr. Weiner erupted.
Mr. Kessler said he wasn’t judging Mr. Weiner but simply calling his past behavior “deviant.” “Go home, go home, and get a job like everyone else,” he grumbled.
“By the way, I fought very hard for this community and delivered more than you ever will in your entire life,” the ex-congressman, who once represented a slice of the city’s Orthodox Jewish community in Congress, said. An aide, prodding Mr. Weiner, seemed to finally convince him to exit the bakery. Back outside, Mr. Weiner brushed off the confrontation, telling Politicker he’d had more heated showdowns with constituents over President Barack Obama’s health care plan.
“When people want to talk to me about things, whether it’s something I want to talk about or not, whether my background or my issues, I’m eager to talk about it,” he said.
Update: (4:44 p.m.): According to a video released by the Weiner campaign, the heckler also appears to quietly disparage Mr. Weiner’s wife, who is Muslim, as “an Arab,” after calling the candidate “a scumbag.”