Weiner's confrontation occurred Wednesday afternoon at an appearance in Brooklyn. While he was touring a bakery, a man called him a "scumbag" and said Weiner was "married to an Arab," in reference to Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who was born in the United States to Indian and Pakistani parents.
"He was saying things within my earshot, but not to me and saying some pretty vile things. And apparently, he didn't expect that I would not stand idly by for it, and I think I put him in his place," Weiner explained to a group of reporters outside of the senior center. "Just because someone is running for office doesn't mean you have an unabridged right to say whatever nasty and vile things you want. ... Part of doing that means that someone is going to respond to you and, by the way, that's the way it's going to be as mayor too. There are going to be people who are going to think that they can say whatever they want and the answer is that they can't."
Weiner repeatedly referenced the Jewish new year and said he forgave the man "in the spirit" of the holiday, which begins on Wednesday evening. He also referred to his experience in the House of Representatives and said he was used to confrontations, but felt this situation merited a strong response.
"I am a politician. None of what I've seen in this campaign can hold a candle to my advocacy for Obamacare and some of the angry and vicious things people have said to me about that," Weiner explained. "I don't mind people getting in my grill. That's politics. But you know, when you start saying vile and racist things about my wife. When you start saying things, using dirty words and curse words around children, and doing it -- shouting them out. ... It was inappropriate and I think he deserved to be put in his place."
Weiner's shouting match with the voter was not his first heated moment of this mayoral campaign. In August, he got into another intense exchange with Republican candidate George McDonald at a debate. He has also been dogged by stories of his "intensity," including allegations he once threw a salad at a wall after getting upset with a staffer during his time in Congress. In light of all these incidents, TPM asked Weiner whether he's concerned he might have an "anger management problem." Weiner referenced the fact Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has accused him of having a "pathological problem," but dismissed the notion he has anger issues.
"Hey, listen, you know that's what Peter King thinks. ... I don't see the value as a citizen or as an elected official -- when someone says something outrageous, or does something outrageous, telling them that it's outrageous. Who do you do a favor when you act like everything's normal when someone tries to shut down the consideration of the 9/11 bill on procedural vote after telling you personally that they would not?" Weiner argued. "Who benefits when someone says something racist and you don't -- you treat it as if it's a polite thing to do. Who benefits from that?"
Weiner went on to suggest his temperament was a qualification in his mayoral bid.
"I think New Yorkers need a leader who is going to express an emotion if it's appropriate. ... If something is outrageous, I'm going to say it's outrageous. And it's puzzling to me about this notion that you're supposed to somehow, well, act as if everything's OK when someone says something biased, or bigoted, or tries to hold someone else down, or tries to deny people their healthcare under the 9/11 bill," said Weiner. "If you want a mayor who's going to pretend every thing's all right when things that are outrageous are happening, don't vote for me. Because when I think something's outrageous, I'm going to say it."
Along with his battles on the campaign trail, Weiner's campaign has included a sexting scandal that knocked him out of contention in the polls. TPM next asked Weiner about the "general perception" he had become "unhinged" or "unraveled" during the course of the mayor's race.
"I don't think that's my perception," Weiner said. "I know that it's a lazy narrative you might want to run with and that's kind of been your stock and trade, so feel free to go with that. But I answered your question, you're free to answer another, but don't characterize someone else as having a perception when you're talking for yourself. That's lazy reporting."
TPM responded by explaining it was a characterization that has been made "throughout the media."
"Oh, so you're asking me why the media has an echo chamber about this as you cast your eyes to other members of the media to get their nodding approval," said Weiner. "I can't answer you what other people think. If other people believe like, for example, you and perhaps Peter King both think it's outrageous to stand on the floor of Congress and fight for the 9/11 Healthcare Bill, and when the Republicans use procedural techniques to try to stop people from getting healthcare who are dying, you're supposed to say, 'Oh, the distinguished gentleman. It's very nice to say that.' No. You act outraged, you act angry."
Watch a full video of Weiner's remarks below.
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