By JAMILA RIZVI
This is Huma Abedin.
At the age of 20 she won a coveted White House internship. She has worked at the highest levels in both the public and private sector. She holds a degree from Washington State University. She was traveling chief of staff to Hillary Clinton during her 2008 campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination. And she worked for the US State Department.
Abedin also happens to be married to a fool.
And for some reason – which remains unclear to me – the world’s media have collectively decided that by marrying and staying married to a fool, Abedin should be derided, demeaned and denigrated.
For those who came late to this story, let’s rewind.
A couple of years ago, Huma’s husband, the aptly named former US congressman Anthony Weiner dipped his toe into the world of Twitter.
Except it wasn’t his toe.
Weiner sent a photo of his semi-erect penis to a 21-year-old woman, via social media. He then proceeded to deny doing it. I did not have sexually charged twitter relations with that woman, he protested. I was hacked, he claimed. Yadda, yadda…
But since the Internet ensures that there’s no such thing as a digital secret – the truth eventually came out. Weiner did send a link to the penis pictures.
Cue Weiner jokes.
This all went down in mid 2011 and ultimately resulted in Weiner resigning his seat in the US House of Representatives.
The press conference where he announced his resignation was predictably awkward. His wife Huma Abedin – notably – did not appear by his side. Instead, she remained in her job, working for the world’s most famous ‘wronged political spouse’, her boss, Hillary Clinton.
But pregnant with their first child, Abedin and Weiner chose to stay together and work things out, away from the public eye. Then in April of this year, Weiner made a triumphant return to politics and entered the race for New York City Mayor. He and Abedin gave a number of high profile interviews discussing how they had repaired their marriage.
“Every day since this happened, I’ve tried to become a better person, a husband Huma deserves and as good a father as I can be,” Weiner told People magazine. Voters seemed to forgive his previous indiscretions. Polls were looking good for the wannabe mayoral candidate.
And then last week it all went horribly wrong.
US political website The Dirty published more explicit sexts (including photographs) from Weiner. This time around, the material had been sent to a different 22-year-old woman and was delivered using the alias Carlos Danger.
Weiner confirmed that some of the newly published material had been sent before his resignation from congress and some, afterwards. He also admitted that more images would surface from more women. And they have. 13 seperate women as we write this have come forward to claim they too received sexual images from Weiner.
Abedin, who this time did attend the excruciating press conference, took to the podium and quietly explained that she had – again – managed to forgive her husband.
As she addressed the assembled media – all desperate to get the perfect snap of this real-life ‘Good Wife’ moment – Abedin looked incredibly strained.
The weight of an enormous personal decision showed on her face. She glanced at her husband regularly for reassurance.
Abedin explained to the media that “it was not an easy choice in any way but I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage… I didn’t know how it would work out but I did know that I wanted to give it a try. I love him. I have forgiven him. I believe in him… And, as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward.”
But here’s where it gets contentious. Having run out of smutty jokes to make about
Can’t-Stop-Taking-Pictures-Of-My Weiner and exhausted their collective outrage, the media have decided to attack… Huma Abedin. Exhibit A, the cover of the New York Post, late last week:
And they weren’t the only ones.
The Atlantic Wire made the wink-wink, nudge-nudge insinuation that Abedin has learned from the master (Hillary Clinton) how to survive a sex scandal and use public sympathy to launch your own political career. Right wing commentator Rush Limbaugh didn’t hold back, labeling the clearly accomplished and intelligent Abedin as ‘a doormat’.
It is as if nobody in the media can imagine a justification for Abedin staying with her husband other than because she is (a) stupid or (b) unashamedly ambitious and opportunistic (two things a woman is never allowed to be in public life).
But I would like to wager a possible reason: She loves him. Because despite Weiner’s unbelievably stupid and hurtful actions, he is the man who Abedin chose. She is a smart and free woman. He is the father of her child. And she chose him. She still chooses him.
Political wives are as diverse as any group of women and so are their marriages. Like any person who decides to stay and fight for a relationship following infidelity, Abedin will have had a million and one considerations to weigh up. Not the least of which, will have been her young son.
The wronged political spouse is a familiar role that has been played by countless women. Jackie Kennedy, Hazel Hawke and Hilary Clinton are some of the best known. But that doesn’t make them a homogenous group. Each woman is different. Each one is their own person, in her own marriage.
And we shouldn’t expect them to fit into a reactionary mold that society creates.
Nobody except Abedin knows what factored into her decision to stay with her husband and nor are we entitled to know. This wasn’t a political decision, it was a personal one.
Aedin is not the one running for public office. Weiner is.
He is the one who is raising his hand, calling himself a reformed man, and asking thousands of people to elect him as their representative. And consequently, he is the one who the media and the public should be scrutinising. His actions should be considered. As should his morality; his judgement; his character.
And the only thing that’s a relevant consideration for the public about Abedin’s press conference, is this: What kind of person allows his wife to further compound her own embarrassment by publicly defending his own indefensible actions?
She may have chosen to stay with him and to publicly defend him out of love.
But if he loves her in return, then perhaps he should never have let her.