Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is done playing the good wife to Anthony Weiner, announcing she is leaving the serially sexting ex-congressman after he was accused of sending raunchy photos and messages to yet another woman.
Abedin, who as vice-chair of Clinton's campaign is destined for big things if the Democrat is elected president, stayed with Weiner after a sexting scandal led him to resign from Congress in 2011 and after a new outbreak of online misbehaviour wrecked his bid for New York mayor in 2013. She didn't leave even when a recent documentary blew up tense moments in their marriage to big-screen proportions.
But yesterday, she effectively declared she had had enough.
"After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband," she said in a statement issued by the campaign. "Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life."
The New York Post published photos on Monday that it said Weiner had sent last year to a woman identified only as a "40-something divorcee" who lives in the West and supports Republican Donald Trump. The photos included two close-ups of Weiner's bulging underpants.
In one of the pictures, Weiner is lying on a bed with his toddler son while texting the woman, according to the Post. The tabloid also ran sexually suggestive messages that it said the two exchanged.
Weiner told the Post that he and the woman "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," the 51-year-old Democrat told the newspaper.
Weiner didn't return a call, text or email from the Associated Press.
He deleted his Twitter account yesterday.
The Post didn't say how it obtained the photographs and messages.
Abedin, 41, is a longtime Clinton aide and confidante who is often referred to as the candidate's second daughter.
Trump immediately seized on the aide's marital split to accuse Clinton of "bad judgment". He suggested that Weiner might have compromised national security, but offered no evidence to support the allegation.
"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," Trump said in a statement. "Who knows what he learned and who he told?"
Abedin has been under scrutiny during the probe into Clinton's use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State.
Federal prosecutors declined to file charges in the investigation, but FBI Director James Comey said Clinton and her aides had been "extremely careless" in their handling of classified information.
Abedin began working for the former first lady as a White House intern and became a trusted aide as Clinton won a seat in the Senate representing New York in 2000, ran for president in 2008 and served as President Barack Obama's Secretary of State.
Former President Bill Clinton officiated when Abedin and Weiner married in 2010.
The marriage would provide years of fodder for political commentators, armchair psychologists and spouses all over America who wondered: How could she stay with him?
Abedin was pregnant with the couple's son, Jordan, when a photo of a man's bulging underpants appeared on Weiner's Twitter account in 2011. After initially claiming his account was hacked, Weiner acknowledged inappropriate online communication with several women.
Two years later, Abedin was all-in for her husband's mayoral bid, raising money, appearing on the campaign trail and participating in interviews in which the couple talked about rebuilding their trust and marriage. Then a new series of sexually explicit pictures and messages emerged, and Weiner was forced to acknowledge he kept sexting after he had resigned from Congress.
Still, Abedin said, "I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and ... we are moving forward." Voters weren't ready to forgive, however. Weiner lost the Democratic primary.
Weiner has since remained in the public eye, commenting on politics on cable news shows. Weiner, the documentary offering a cringe-inducing inside view of his mayoral campaign and its unravelling, played in theatres earlier this year and is set to air on Showtime this fall.
He recently refused to answer when asked whether he was still sexting, telling the New York Times Magazine in an interview published on August 16: "I'm not going to go down the path of talking about any of that."
Some psychology experts, while cautioning they haven't treated him, suggested his behaviour smacks of extreme impulsiveness, compulsion or addiction.
"Impulsivity is something that a lot of people really struggle with," said Jeannette Stern, a New York therapist.
While there are various approaches people can try to change such behaviour, she noted: "They have to really be willing to stop."
7 Things to take from the scandal
1. It's a compulsion, isn't it? It must be. You know the old saying: Sext a strange woman once, then shame on you. Sext another woman later, then shame on you again. Sext yet another woman - once with your toddler-age son in the frame, in images obtained by the New York Post - then check in with your therapist and admit that this really isn't funny anymore.
2. Actually, this is the story of a man with two compulsions. One is the compulsion to sext, which the Centre for Internet Addiction cites as the most common online addiction, with the proliferation of "pocket porn" tied to the rise in mobile devices. The other is the compulsion to run for office. The first would be significantly easier to keep secret without the existence of the second. One assumes they might be related: Both combine an intense neediness for attention with an intense narcissism.
3. Thank God she left him this time. Huma Abedin, the glamorous Hillary Clinton aide whose long-suffering-wife status might be supplanted only by her boss's, announced the news via public statement, "During this difficult time, I ask for respect for our privacy."
4. Privacy. Is there a way we can give it to her, but not to him? He was the one who, in 2011, accidentally posted a picture of his junk on his public Twitter feed. He was the one whose second screw-up, in 2013, happened in the middle of his campaign for mayor of New York City. News conferences were held. More texts were produced, these to a woman named Sydney Leathers, resulting in a sexting scandal between two people with names that sounded like they were designed to end up in a sexting scandal.
"I love him, I believe in him, I have forgiven him," Abedin said after that one. Privacy for Huma. All the privacy in the world for Huma. For him, no. None for him.
5. Stolen from a friend on Twitter: "Anthony Weiner is proof that the Clintons don't actually have people murdered."
6. Oh good, Donald Trump is weighing in: "Huma is making a very wise decision," the Republican presidential candidate said in his own statement. "I know Anthony Weiner well, and she will be far better off without him." Sounds nice, right?
7. Oh wait, Donald Trump wasn't done yet: "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," he continued. "Who knows what he learned and who he told?" Sigh.
- AP, Washington Post