Embattled New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner met with Superstorm Sandy victims on Friday, but he still could not shake questions on the sexting scandal that threatens to derail his political comeback.
"I'm going to keep talking about the issues that are important to most New Yorkers," Weiner told reporters at an impromptu news conference outside the home of Joseph Cardinale on Staten Island.
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Cardinale, a 14-year resident of a beachfront neighborhood still hurting from Sandy's deadly tidal surge in October last year, told Weiner that his home would have to be torn down. He expressed frustration at how difficult it has been to rebuild.
Weiner, 48, a Democrat, said he visited the neighborhood because he wanted to bring attention to the plight of Sandy victims.
"One of the reasons why we're here today is that I knew that now, you're gonna come with me. And you should see this," he told reporters. "There is this notion because the cameras had left, because some of the headlines changed, that the problem was solved. But for many, many people, they are still dealing with the challenge."
Weiner, however, kept getting questions about his latest sexting scandal, including one from neighborhood resident Peg Brunda, a retired schoolteacher.
"I don't quite understand how you would feel you'd have the moral authority, as the head administrator in this city, to oversee employees when your standard of conduct is so much lower than the standard of conduct that is expected of us," Brunda told Weiner.
The former congressman asked whether Brunda would vote for him. She said no. "I want to let your neighbors make their decisions for themselves," Weiner said.
Remaining defiant, he reiterated that he was not abandoning his mayoral run and said the final decision rested with New York City voters in a Sept. 10 primary. If no candidate wins more than 40 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held on Oct. 1.
Weiner resigned his House seat in June 2011 after acknowledging that he had sexted with at least a half-dozen women.
In the latest episode, Weiner admitted on Tuesday to exchanging racy photos and having sexually explicit chats with a 22-year-old woman, later identified as Sydney Leathers, whom he had met online. He used the name Carlos Danger online.
"It is not, I believe, the be-all and end-all of my campaign," Weiner said in response to a reporter's question. "I want to talk about how we continue Sandy relief. I want to talk about housing, but you're doing your job. I can completely respect that.
"It's not up to you to decide. It's not up to me to decide," he added. "... I want [voters] to make this decision — and they've got plenty of information about me to make it, and I want to give them more every day. I'm going to keep talking about my ideas.
"I'm going to try to keep bringing issues to the forefront that I think are important to citizens," Weiner added. "But this is from a year ago, and since I've gotten in the race and a lot of this information, the basic facts of this information, have been out there, people have said to me that some of them are concerned about these issues.
"But many people want to talk about their future, not necessarily my past."
He acknowledged attacks this week by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful female Democrat on Capitol Hill, but said, "Nancy Pelosi, she's not going to have the chance to vote for me. I have embarrassed my colleagues with this.
"The things that I did are wrong," Weiner added. "They were hurtful to my wife. I compounded it enormously by misleading people about it after, but when I got in this race, all of this was in the past — and it's staying in the past."
He refused to respond in detail to critical statements from Leathers, now a 23-year-old college student who described herself as a political junkie. In an interview with "Inside Edition" on Thursday, she said of Weiner, "He is a liar."
"I have no response to any people who put out information they want to put out," Weiner said. "It's their decision. I'm certainly not going to do it."
Weiner also debunked a report Friday by The New York Post
saying that his brother, Jason Weiner, who owns the Manhattan restaurant Almond, had approached Leathers days after the announcement of his mayoral bid.
Jason Weiner talked with Leathers on April 12, two days after Weiner’s comeback interview ran in The New York Times Magazine, and grilled her on her intentions, Lou Colagiovanni, a Las Vegas-based political activist, told the Post.
"That's absolutely not true," Anthony Weiner said in response to a reporter's question. "Never did in any way."
"He was trying to see if she was going to be a problem," Colagiovanni told the Post. "She said Jason was trying to take her temperature."
Leathers confessed her six-month cyberaffair with Weiner to Colagiovanni the same day, he told the Post. Colagiovanni said he and Leathers had known each other since 2010.
In a day rich with media attacks on Weiner, The New Yorker magazine
published a cover illustration depicting the mayoral candidate atop the top of the Empire State Building, reminiscent of the final scene from "King Kong."
With a topic like Anthony Weiner, how can you find anything broad or funny that he hasn't already personally breached?" John Cuneo, the artist behind the cover, asked in an interview with the magazine.
"Free association made me think of the Empire State Building, and then King Kong, the iconic image of him straddling it," Cuneo continued. "And then Weiner sexting, his head tilted and looking a certain way — I just stumbled upon the image as I was sketching.
"But all I could think about while working on this piece was, 'Will Weiner still be in the race by the time it runs?'"
The magazine with the Weiner cover is due on newsstands next week.
And a new poll released on Friday
showed that Weiner's standing had fallen 9 points behind City Council Speaker and Democratic front-runner Christine Quinn.
The survey, by NBC 4 New York, The Wall Street Journal and the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, was the first taken since Weiner's hastily called news conference on Tuesday.
It showed Quinn leading with 25 percent of registered Democrats, followed by Weiner at 16 percent, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson tied at 14 percent each.
But in June, Weiner was in front, at 25 percent, followed by Quinn at 20 percent, Thompson at 13 percent, and de Blasio at 10 percent.
Weiner's favorability numbers have also been turned upside down, according to the survey: 55 percent now view him negatively, compared to 30 percent who view him positively. A month ago, Weiner's numbers were 52 percent positive to 36 percent negative.
New York City "deserves a mayor who's serious, who has a real record of results, of vision for the future, who's responsible and mature," Quinn told CNN on Friday. "All we've seen here ... is really a pattern of reckless behavior, an immaturity and a real disconnect from the truth.
"New Yorkers are smart people," she continued. "They're cutting through this circus, and they've been having conversations with me every day about the real issues in their lives. And they want the mayor to be about their lives and not themselves."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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