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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Anthony Weiner is trying to salvage his campaign after new details emerged that he’d traded racy messages with as many as three women since similar sexting forced him out of Congress.
Facing a third day of renewed queries and criticism of his conduct, Weiner attended a New York City mayor’s forum Thursday night.
“These things are behind me and I’m looking forward on how to make New York better for the middle class and those struggling,” he said.
The scandal got seamier Thursday when the gossip website The Dirty posted an unredacted crotch shot that it said Weiner sent to a woman last year.
When reporters attempted to pin down the evasive Weiner as to the number of women with whom he had exchanged illicit messages, he delivered a rambling response before settling on “six to 10, I suppose.” His campaign later clarified that of that total, Weiner corresponded with three of them after leaving office.
Weiner said he was still “working with people” to get help dealing with his penchant for X-rated online flirting, but he disputed that it’s an addiction.
The woman who claims to have engaged in the online sex chats with Weiner, 23-year-old Sydney Leathers, confirmed her identity Thursday and told “Inside Edition” that Weiner disgusted her.
“He’s not who I thought he was,” she told the show. “The exact wording was that he is an argumentative, perpetually horny middle-aged man. At the time, I was like, ‘no you’re not.’ But yes he is.”
She said Weiner told her that he loved her and she reciprocated. Asked what advice she would give the embattled mayoral candidate, she said, “Stop lying, stop embarrassing his wife and get help.”
“I felt like he was saying one thing to me and saying another thing to his wife, another thing on the campaign trail,” she said.
Leathers said Weiner started corresponding with her last July, more than a year after he stepped down from Congress and within weeks of a glowing People magazine cover story about his repaired marriage to Hillary Rodham Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Before the revelations, Weiner was leading most polls gauging the primary race. But a new Marist poll Thursday showed he fell behind City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the crowded Democratic field.
The poll also found 55 percent of registered Democrats now have an unfavorable impression of Weiner, while 30 percent see him favorably. The numbers were nearly the reverse of a June poll by the same entities, which tallied a 52-36 percent favorable-to-unfavorable split then.
“New York City Democrats were willing to give Anthony Weiner a second chance but are reluctant to excuse his behavior now,” Marist College polling director Lee Miringoff said in an analysis of the results.
But most of the audience at Thursday night’s mayoral forum seemed willing to look beyond Weiner’s mistakes.
“He’s been brave enough to come forward and admit his mistakes, even with his wife,” said Saman Tha Perez from Queens.
“As long as you recognize it, that you make a mistake and you’re willing to work on it, that’s a good thing,” said Maria Jimenez from Brooklyn.
Still, Democratic voters are roughly evenly split on whether he should drop out of the race, and on whether his digital dalliances will affect their votes.
“Campaigns are not about the candidates,” Weiner said. ”It may look that way, our names may be on the ballot, but this is about New Yorkers.”
Weiner has been urged to quit the race by newspaper editorial boards some rivals. And on Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called his behavior “reprehensible” and “disrespectful of women.” But she said it was up to him to decide whether he should leave the mayor’s race.
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