Huma Abedin — the long-serving Hillary Clinton aide who prides herself on her loyalty and discretion — again finds herself under a glare of unwanted scrutiny after announcing her separation from husband and disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner.
Weiner lost his job and now potentially his marriage after repeatedly getting caught sending suggestive messages to women on Twitter.
Abedin has periodically garnered headlines over the years for her roles in controversies over donor access to Clinton, her boss’s use of a private email server at the State Department and Abedin’s overlapping employment with an outside consulting firm while she was a government employee. But it is her marriage to Weiner that made her a somewhat reluctant celebrity — her choices and motives up for public debate, her marriage the subject of a documentary, and her designer clothing the subject of public scrutiny and magazine profiles.
“After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband,” Abedin wrote. “Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life. During this difficult time, I ask for respect for our privacy.”
The announcement follows a report Sunday in the New York Post that Weiner had recently sent photos and sexual messages to another woman. The newspaper reported that Weiner — wearing pants but no shirt — sent one revealing picture of his crotch last year while his young son, Jordan Zane, was curled in the bed next to him.
“It is not a coincidence that this was announced this morning, but it has been in the works for a while,” said a close friend of Abedin’s. “They have been going their separate ways for some time now.”
The separation apparently ends one of the most-watched and seemingly improbable political marriages of recent times.
Weiner was the picture of the brash, combative New York politician — an in-your-face Democrat who made political enemies even as his star rose in Washington. Abedin was the quiet, glamorous figure at Hillary Clinton’s side. He is Jewish; she describes herself as a proud Muslim, reared in Saudi Arabia to academic parents from South Asia.
Their 2010 wedding was a political society event attended by Hillary Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton.
Hillary Clinton said then that Abedin was like a second daughter to her, and indeed Abedin spends more time with Clinton than nearly anyone else inside her family or out of it. Abedin has unique access to the candidate, born of two decades of discreet service. She is now the vice chair of Clinton’s campaign.
The separation also supplies a different ending to the parallel between Bill and Hillary Clinton and each wife’s public embarrassment by the sexual indiscretions of her politician husband. Abedin was present as an East Wing aide for Hillary Clinton’s painful reckoning with her husband’s infidelities. Whatever advice passed between them about Weiner’s betrayal remains a private matter.
Abedin has been tangled in several ethical and legal controversies involving Clinton and the Clinton family charity. She drew criticism and allegations of impropriety for outside employment while she was a staffer at the State Department.
The aide was one of a tiny number of people who had email accounts on a private server housed in Clinton’s suburban New York basement, and was among those interviewed by the FBI in its investigation of whether classified materials were mishandled. Emails sent or received by Abedin released as part of a lawsuit by the activist group Judicial Watch also show she was a point of contact for Clinton Foundation staffers seeking access or favors at the State Department.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing, but Republicans and other critics have said Abedin is part of a culture of insider dealings and “pay to play” arrangements in which donors to the Clinton Foundation may have expected special treatment from a secretary of state and potential future president.
Photographs of Abedin from Clinton’s campaign stops suggest she has not worn a wedding ring for some weeks, although it was not clear whether that was a decision related to her announcement Monday.
Weiner told the New York Post that he and the woman who was the subject of the latest “sexting” allegations “have been friends for some time.”
“She has asked me not to comment except to say that our conversations were private, often included pictures of her nieces and nephews and my son and were always appropriate,” he said.
As with previous women who received lewd messages from Weiner, this woman does not claim to have had a physical relationship with him. Indeed, she told the newspaper that she had never met him.
Weiner deleted his Twitter account Monday morning. The statement from Abedin followed. Weiner has not commented further.
GOP nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly alleged without evidence that Abedin was sharing classified secrets with her husband, whom he called a “pervert” and a “sleaze.” He said in a statement Monday that Abedin was “making a very wise decision” by separating.
“I know Anthony Weiner well, and she will be far better off without him,” said Trump, who has been divorced twice. “I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information. Who knows what he learned and who he told? It’s just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this.”
During an radio interview later Monday on KIRO in Seattle, Trump said, “Here’s a guy who, what he’s done over the Internet is disgusting and he’s a pervert and just a very sick guy and she is married to him.”
Abedin stood by Weiner through the initial 2011 revelations about his online relationships with women. Abedin was pregnant when Weiner’s sexting habit led to his resignation from Congress in June 2011. Their son was born in December of that year, and Weiner has been a stay-at-home dad for much of the time since.
A second sexting episode in 2013 helped seal defeat for Weiner as he attempted a political comeback by running in the New York mayor’s race. A documentary about that race released this year, “Weiner,” includes painful scenes with Abedin after Weiner was shown to have continued online relationships with women after he left Congress.
Abedin, 41, has worked for Clinton since she was first lady. She was the subject of a Vogue interview this month in which she talked about the pressures of parenthood during a busy political campaign.
“Many working moms feel this way — there is a lot of guilt,” Abedin said. “I don’t think I could do it if I didn’t have the support system I have, if Anthony wasn’t willing to be, essentially, a full-time dad. I have in-laws who are really supportive. And I’m lucky enough to have a nanny, which I realize is completely a luxury — a lot of people aren’t able to do that. That allows me to travel and do my job.”
Clinton’s palace guard of aides and friends has always been intensely protective of Abedin, including during her marital troubles and in the face of conservative accusations about alleged ties to Islamist radicalism. She had denied any such ties, and they have been debunked by the Washington Post’s Fact Checker column and others.
Loyalty to Abedin, however, did not stop Clinton friends from speculating about why she chose to stay with Weiner or why she married him in the first place.
“Nobody liked him at the start and nobody likes him now,” said one Clinton supporter. “We could never figure it out.”
Abedin caused some grumbling among Clinton loyalists and donors by canvassing for donations during Weiner’s mayoral run, and there are quiet complaints around the Clintons’ vast network of supporters and donors that she holds too much power over the candidate’s time and decision-making.
But support for her was swift and firm on Monday, with friends saying she should be allowed to make her personal family decisions in private.
“She is stalwart, and a consummate professional. She also cares deeply about her son,” the close friend said.
Both that friend and other Clinton loyalists who spoke about Abedin on the condition of anonymity out of respect for her privacy.
Abedin had traveled to the Long Island resort area of the Hamptons with her son and other family members before the New York Post article went online on Sunday evening and planned to remain there, out of public view, for a short period, the close friend said. Hillary Clinton was raising campaign money in the Hamptons on Sunday and Monday.
Abedin does not plan to take a formal leave, the friend said.