Weinergate’s Littlest Casualty

Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin, and their son Jordan (People.com).

Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin, and their son Jordan (People.com).

In 2011, I sympathized with Huma Abedin. Anthony Weiner was undoubtedly abhorrent, but when she announced her pregnancy, I thought I understood her calculus: Better to stay together and offer their child an intact family life. Today, Huma makes more sense to me as a political player than a mother, though.

I watched Anthony Weiner’s recent press conference with a sense of déjà vu. As a speechwriter, I noticed that Weiner repeatedly mentioned how he’d harmed “my wife”, but never “my family”, thereby excluding their toddler, Jordan. Was Weiner compartmentalizing, separating his son from his bad behavior?

It wasn’t until Huma read her prepared remarks that anyone referenced Jordan at all. She told us that after “a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy”, she forgave Weiner, making the decision that “it was worth staying in this marriage. That was a decision I made for me, for our son, and for our family”. She closed by telling us, “I love him. I have forgiven him. I believe in him, and as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward”.

It’s nice that Huma and Anthony are ready to move forward, but I’m not sure everyone else is. The man really continued engaging in the same self-destructive behavior that forced his resignation from Congress for another year? Huma must be incredibly understanding.

Last summer, Huma told People magazine, “My husband did a really, really stupid thing. But he didn’t kill anyone and the only person he hurt was me”.  Weiner and Abedin clearly think of his online indiscretions as a matter between them. And Abedin evoked sympathy as she and Weiner recounted 2011’s events for the New York Times magazine this spring.

However, it’s one thing to argue that Weiner’s personal failings are a personal matter – even if his serial lying and compulsive, self-destructive behavior should concern voters – but quite another to insist the fallout was limited to the two of them. If Weiner’s behavior fomented turmoil in his marriage, Jordan would likely have felt it. Children are remarkably perceptive; when parents are stressed or upset, kids feel it too. And while he can’t understand now, Jordan’s future will likely include embarrassment.

Huma also told People last summer, “[Anthony] has spent every single day since [the scandal] trying to be the best dad he can be, the best husband he can be and it shows. I consider myself very lucky to be married to him. I’m proud to be married to him. I want Jordan to be proud of who his father is”.

Weiner’s continued misbehavior is more surprising, as he has been “his son’s primary caretaker”.  W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, co-authored Gender and Parenthood, which cites studies showing that men’s testosterone levels drop after baby’s arrival, while “prolactin levels rise . . . testosterone is associated with aggression and heightened libido, whereas prolactin is associated with heightened levels of parental care”.

In other words, biology urges fathers to settle down and nurture their offspring. So even though Weiner told The Times “Jordan has given us a lot of perspective”, it’s not clear that he really benefited from what Wilcox calls “the transformative power of fatherhood”.

Now that we know Weiner continued sending lewd messages and pictures to women young enough to be his daughters – and Huma knew – does she still believe Weiner is a great husband? Do they believe Jordan learns respect for women by observing his parents’ marriage? Does Weiner believe he is a good role model? And when Jordan understands the enormity of his parents’ public humiliation, how will he process his father’s lying, both publicly and privately?

Huma is right that those hurt most by Weiner’s actions live under her roof, but she chose to stand by Weiner and speak on his behalf last week. Pity the voiceless Jordan Weiner; he’s the biggest victim of all. And if Anthony Weiner really wants to be a good father, he should devote himself to it and drop out of the race for mayor of New York. Fame may be fun, but a close relationship with your happy and healthy child is priceless.

This article appeared in Acculturated.

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