“I might have successfully whistled past the graveyard here,” Anthony Weiner explains to filmmaker Josh Kriegman. It’s the spring or early summer of 2013, and Weiner, despite having resigned his House seat two years earlier as the result of a sexting scandal, is running for mayor of New York City and leading in the polls. Footage shows him giddily whirling a rainbow flag at an event, surrounded by wildly enthusiastic supporters. (Then, a study in contrast: a grim handful of voters half-heartedly carrying signs for his primary opponent, then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.) Weiner seems on the verge of pulling off one of the most remarkable political comebacks in memory.
That is the story that Kriegman and his co-director, Elyse Stenberg, thought they might be recording when they began work on their documentary Weiner on May 21, 2013, the day Anthony Weiner announced his candidacy for mayor. The story they got—as anyone who ever reads a paper will recall all too well—was a far more mesmerizing one.
Not long after Weiner’s comment about graveyard-whistling, the other shoe dropped, and dropped hard: It turned out that Weiner’s habit of sending women explicit photographs of himself via Twitter and Facebook had continued long after his resignation from Congress; he had also conducted an extensive phone-sex relationship with a 22-year-old named Sydney Leathers, who quickly took advantage of her newfound notoriety to launch a porn career; and most farcical—and arguably most damaging—Weiner had engaged in these activities under the sobriquet “Carlos Danger.” (As Stephen Colbert memorably quipped: “I suppose it was to avoid using a ridiculous name, like ‘Anthony Weiner.’”)