NEW YORK –- When the former New York congressman Anthony Weiner left his apartment Wednesday afternoon, reporters were outside waiting.
“So I don’t have anything more to add than what you read in The New York Times story,” he said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “But I’ll be glad to sit down with each of you individually at some time next week.”
That New York Times story, appearing online Wednesday and in Sunday’s print magazine, offered the first extended interview with Weiner and Huma Abedin, his wife and a former top Hillary Clinton aide, since the congressman's resignation amid scandal over lewd tweets and sexually-charged conversations with women online. Weiner is now considering a run for New York City mayor, making the decision to open up about past indiscretions straight out of the “post-scandal playbook,” which also happened to be Times’ headline.
Given Weiner's motivation, the Times Magazine was in a tricky situation, serving as both the chronicler of a disgraced politician's attempt at redemption and providing the platform for him to make that case to the public.
New York Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren acknowledged that it was an "unusual situation."
"We tried to err on the side of being right up front, letting our readers know what the whole playbook was," Lindgren told The Huffington Post. "I don’t think there’s anything mysterious about that. I don’t think there is some agenda that we didn’t understand."
Jonathan Van Meter, a contributing editor at Vogue and New York magazine, wrote in the article that "by agreeing to be interviewed, Weiner and Abedin would seem to be trying to give voters what they want -- and gauge public reaction."
Later, Van Meter wrote that “while there certainly was a lot of strategic thinking in deciding to tell their story six months before the mayoral primary, there didn’t seem to be a lot of strategy to how they told it,” adding that “Weiner says he decided to wing it in our interviews.”
The Weiner story was a coup for the Times Magazine, considering that Van Meter is a contributing editor at rival New York magazine and penned that publication's February cover story on Democratic mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.
Lindgren, once second-in-command at New York under Adam Moss, a former editor of the Times Magazine, said that Van Meter approached the editors a few months back to gauge their interest in the Weiner piece. Given that Weiner and Abedin had not yet given a lengthy interview, its not surprising that Lindgren was interested. Lindgren said he couldn't explain why New York didn't land the story.
By allowing Weiner the opportunity to speak at length about how he's learned and changed, the Times Magazine has faced some criticism of being too soft on the former congressman -- a criticism that doesn't surprise Lindgren.
"We’re obviously aware of that being an issue the whole time," Lindgren said. "For the type of story it is, the most important thing is to hear what he’s saying. By doing that, I think you unavoidably give off the feeling you’re giving him the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think we did. I don’t think Jonathan did. We don’t endorse him running for mayor or anything. What we have is what they’re telling us."
Lindgren added that scoring the Weiner exclusive was "not just this great tabloid get, [but] a very rewarding reading experience."
"You feel like you have two people speaking honestly and a writer who's in control of the piece," he said. "It’s not Anthony Weiner’s piece. It’s not Huma Abedin’s piece. It’s Jonathan Van Meter’s piece. I think that’s clear throughout the story."