The Statement Anthony Weiner Should Release

Should he win? Lose? Who cares? America's overwrought obsession with political sex scandals doesn't do any good.
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In U.S. politics, sex scandals are always treated as if they're much more important than all sorts of stuff that's more relevant to the job at hand, and often times much more depraved. I am tired of it.

The idea that sex scandals are "too big a distraction" is a self-fulfilling media prophecy. It served us ill in the Clinton years, and it's no less dysfunctional now.

New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner has messed up repeatedly. He lied to his wife and the people about sending digital pictures of his private parts, even after he was caught. We all know this and can judge accordingly. So why is this the biggest political story of the day? Because it involves sex? The web is full of stories that involve sex and feature much more attractive images than Weiner's erection.

Deep down we all know this: our fascination reflects poorly on us. Let's at least imagine an alternative. Here's what Weiner might say if he were being more honest, with himself and the public, and if the public was a bit more mature, which isn't the same as condoning Weiner's lies.

For the record, I have no idea if Weiner would be a good mayor, and don't particularly care if he wins or not.


People of Gotham,

Anthony Weiner here.

Here's the deal: I really like to text photographs of my genitals to women I meet on the Internet. A lot. We all know this. The way you crave sex sometimes? Sometimes I crave cybersex. I am not particularly proud of this fetish. In fact, having it revealed to the public has been the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me, and to my wife, which is the part I regret most. I love her so much, and I wish for her sake that I didn't feel this compulsion to contact strangers on the Internet, send them naked pictures of myself, and engage in cybersex.

But I do. And it is powerful.

Some people can't stop smoking cigarettes. Others can't stop drinking too much, or eating to the point of obesity, or yelling at their families, or visiting prostitutes, or snorting cocaine. Are these addictions?

Compulsions?

Failures of character?

I don't know.

But cybersex is what I just couldn't stop doing. I'd like to tell you it won't happen again. But honestly, it could. I'll successfully fight the urge if I can. Struggle to do it. But in the past, I've been unable to resist logging onto my computer, contacting a woman anonymously on the Internet, and trading naked pictures, possibly of my penis. Why? I don't really understand it myself.

Afterward, I felt better, but also guilty. It really sucks. If I'm being honest, I wish I just could've gotten away with it, without anyone ever finding out. Do you even understand why you care so much, now that you know?

It's unusual, I admit, though not that unusual. Have you ever logged onto Chat Roulette? Yeesh. Gross. So many penises. And judging from the hit counts on certain web sites when my scandal broke, a lot of you didn't mind going out of your way to look at my tweet. Hey, I'm in no position to judge.

I desperately wish that I had totally conventional turn-ons. What do average Americans do online for sexual gratification? Girls Gone Wild clips? Definitely more normal. But still sorta creepy when you think about it, am I right? So was that whole Bill Clinton-with-the-intern incident.

But wasn't he a good president? I thought so.

I still think I'd be a good mayor, but only if you know going in that I might have an illicit cyber-conversations during my term ... and you still elect me. I won't be any more of an egocentric exhibitionist than the average big-city mayor, that's for sure. In fact, I'll get all those impulses out of my system on my own time. On the other hand, if this is a dealbreaker for you, I understand. 

Either way, after this statement, I'm done apologizing or explaining -- this is part of who I am, unfortunately for me.

If you think this reflects badly on my character, maybe you're right. I like to think that I am generally an honest person -- that my desperate lying indicated my extreme aversion to embarrassing myself and my wife on a truly epic scale, not a tendency to lie about normal things in the course of daily life. If your darkest sexual secrets and preferences were on the cusp of being revealed, mortifying your wife and destroying your career, wouldn't you lie to protect them? Would that lying be a good proxy for your general truthfulness? Or maybe that's just a story I tell myself so that I don't have to think of myself as a bad person. You're a better judge than me.

But look, this isn't Dayton, Ohio. It's New York City. If you live here, it's because you are willing to confront the real world, not some sugar-coated version. For better or worse, some real people have sexual compulsions that they fail to overcome. They aren't all irredeemable, even if they try to stop and keep failing. Maybe voters should know about stuff like this, or maybe not, but obsessing over it? Why? I am not in a position anymore to dispassionately judge my own character. I do know that lots of people with sexual compulsions lead highly successful professional lives despite them. As my personal life has been in turmoil, my ability to do good work is the one thing I've known for sure -- that, and that I love my wife, who has agreed, against her better judgment, to stick with me, despite my compulsion, because we really do love one another.

If only there wasn't this public failure of mine that I haven't been able to beat ... and God, I am a failure in this area.

And Twitter, also.

But not at most other things.

So it's up to you: Take me or leave me, as I am. No hard feelings either way. And know, every time you see me on the cover of a tabloid, that I have a personal problem -- whereas the people putting me on the cover? They're making their living profiting off a guy's personal problem.

Even before this whole thing, I thought sex scandals were overplayed.

They'll move on to someone else eventually -- they always do. But I'll remember what it feels like to be ridiculed and denied empathy. Maybe that will make me better at my job. I'll certainly try my hardest to succeed in any work you give me, in the way you do when your personal life isn't going as well as you hoped, and the professional realm is the one place you can be competent.

Finally, I won't profile Muslims, blacks, or Hispanics. That's just irremediably depraved.

Thank you.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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