What Does Anthony Weiner's New Sex Scandal Mean for Hillary Clinton's Campaign?
A former adviser in Bill Clinton's White House tells PEOPLE that Huma Abedin's troubles are a personal matter – not a political one
Donald Trump was quick to link rival Hillary Clinton to Anthony Weiner‘s latest sexting scandal after the former congressman’s wife, top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, announced she was leaving him on Monday.
“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,” the GOP nominee said in a statement. “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.”
Some accused Trump of politicizing a private matter, while others, like the Los Angeles Times‘ Evan Halper and the conservative Washington Times, suggested that Abedin, 40, may in fact be a “liability” for the Democratic nominee.
But when asked about chatter in the political press that Abedin, who serves as vice chairwoman of Clinton’s presidential campaign, has proved a distraction or political liability for the Democratic nominee, a Clinton campaign official told PEOPLE: “That’s ridiculous. That’s not who this campaign is, and that’s not who Hillary Clinton is.”
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A former adviser in Bill Clinton‘s White House who has remained close to the Clinton team tells PEOPLE that Abedin’s troubles are a personal matter – not a political one: “Anyone who knows the Clintons – and knows Huma’s relationship with with them – knows they’re not seeing this as political. There are lots of things you’d call distractions in a political campaign, but this is not one of them. This is the personal pain of someone who is valuable and who they adore. To the extent that Hillary and Bill Clinton are playing a role at all, it’s to be comforting to her and to offer her the space to deal with all of this.”
Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen also dismissed the concerns Trump and others have voiced about Abedin.
“Of course Hillary shouldn’t shed Huma,” Rosen tells PEOPLE. “She is an effective counselor and an important part of the campaign. I don’t think that Donald Trump, whose three marriages and notorious behavior has been spread through the pages of the New York Post for years, really gets a say here.”
And David Axelrod, former top advisor to President Barack Obama, now director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, says, “It’s important to put this in its proper perspective. I don’t think anyone in America is going to vote this fall based on Huma’s marital problems. It may be a story of interest in the dog days of summer but it won’t be in November.”
“Huma is essential to Hillary and, I’m sure, will continue to be,” he adds.
Still, The New York Times says Weiner’s “tawdry activities … have cast another shadow on the adviser and confidante who has been by Mrs. Clinton’s side for the past two decades.” The scandal “also threatens to remind voters about the troubles in the Clintons’ own marriage over the decades, including Mrs. Clinton’s much-debated decision to remain with then-President Bill Clinton after revelations of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky,” the Times‘ Amy Chozick and Patrick Healy write. The newspaper, along with other outlets, also points out that Abedin has come under scrutiny for incidents unrelated to her husband’s extramarital behavior, like her role in Clinton’s email scandal and her controversial job arrangement under the former secretary of state.
Despite these so-called “distractions,” Abedin, who has often been referred to as a “second daughter” to Clinton, is by all appearances forging straight ahead with the Democratic nominee.
On Tuesday, Abedin was in the Hamptons with Clinton, wrapping up the last of three days of fundraisers. And Abedin could obviously count on having Clinton’s actual daughter, Chelsea Clinton, quite literally at her side. Invitations went out on Tuesday for a campaign fund-raising fashion show on Sept. 6 in New York City that will feature Abedin and Chelsea Clinton together with Vogue editor Anna Wintour.