The Sunday Magazine

Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's longtime aide, on staying with a cheating husband and her boss's loss to Trump

Huma Abedin, longtime political aide to Hillary Clinton, has emerged from behind her boss and her scandal-plagued husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner, to write her own version of their very public lives in a new memoir. She spoke to The Sunday Magazine's Piya Chattopadhyay.

Wife of disgraced ex-congressman Anthony Weiner says she no longer carries the guilt of Clinton's 2016 defeat

Huma Abedin, seen here during the 2016 election campaign, tells Piya Chattopadhyay that she blames former FBI director James Comey for Hillary Clinton's loss. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Huma Abedin says she knows that for the past decade, people have read about her life and watched her on TV and wondered, "What is wrong with her? What was she thinking?" 

But the longtime political aide to Hillary Clinton says her experience with her husband Anthony Weiner's sexting scandal is really not that different from that of other people who've dealt with heartbreak, betrayal or trauma — she just had to go through it on the front pages of newspapers. 

"I could go to work and be successful and be surrounded by that [success]," she told The Sunday Magazine's Piya Chattopadhyay.

"But the shame can be overwhelming. And it is one of the reasons I chose to write." 

In a new memoir, Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds, Abedin also recalls her childhood in the Middle East, travelling the world with her family, learning about loyalty and her two decades working alongside Clinton.

She started as an intern in Clinton's office straight out of university in the late 1990s, when Clinton was first lady, married to then U.S. president Bill Clinton. Abedin remained as a trusted aide through Hillary Clinton's time as a U.S. senator, eventually becoming her deputy chief of staff when Clinton was U.S. Secretary of State, and then vice-chair of her 2016 presidential campaign. 

WATCH | Abedin speaks to CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton about her political career:

Huma Abedin reflects on some of the biggest moments of her career as Hillary Clinton's most trusted advisor

3 months ago
Duration 11:19
Huma Abedin, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, speaks to CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton about her political career, as well as how her estranged husband’s sexting scandal upended her public service, and even impacted the 2016 presidential election. 11:19

In her role as a strong and loyal voice in Clinton's ear, Abedin remained mostly off camera. 

That changed in 2011 when, less than a year after she married Weiner, her then-congressman husband sent a lewd photo of himself from his Twitter account to another woman. He said he meant to send it privately, but instead it went very public. 

Not only was Weiner's act a personal betrayal for Abedin, it foreshadowed events that would occur five years later during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign — and contribute to the email-server scandal that Clinton and many others blame for her loss to Donald Trump.

'Carried the guilt' of Clinton's loss

Back in 2011, Abedin stuck by Weiner after the sexting revelations that led him to resign from the U.S. Congress

Two years later, Weiner had to admit the sexting hadn't stopped after another woman went public about their private email exchange while he was running to be mayor of New York City. 

Like Hillary Clinton, who decided to stay in her marriage after Bill Clinton, admitted to infidelity during his time in the White House, Abedin stuck with Weiner. Again.

Standing beside him at a news conference, she said she forgave him. 

Abedin is seen alongside alongside her now estranged husband Anthony Weiner on July 23,2013, when he was a New York mayoral candidate. She said she lost friends and was shamed in the streets for staying with him at the time. (The Associated Press)
   

Adedin's loyalty to Weiner, her staying with him, would eventually play a part in the FBI's decision to reopen its investigation into Hillary's Clinton's private email server just days before the 2016 election. That's because a cache of emails between Clinton and Abedin were found on Weiner's seized laptop during yet another sexting investigation.

"I carried this for a long time," she said in her CBC interview. "I carried the guilt. I carried her loss singlehandedly on myself." 

But not anymore, said Abedin.

She doesn't blame herself or what happened with her husband for Clinton's loss. She said she blames former FBI director James Comey's decision to make the probe public — something Comey told Chattopadhyay in 2018, that was "a nightmare" for him, but that he wouldn't change even if he could go back.

WATCH | Comey talks about going public with the Clinton email probe days before the 2016 election:

'It was a nightmare for me': Comey on the Clinton emails case

4 years ago
Duration 1:29
Former FBI director James Comey reflects on the decision to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. 1:29
 

'Second daughter'

Abedin is now Clinton's chief of staff, and is unfailingly loyal to and supportive of Clinton throughout the book.

While reviews of Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds have been mixed, Clinton, who once referred to Abedin as her "second daughter," tweeted that she found the memoir "powerful and moving".

Abedin says she comes by her loyalty to the former Democratic presidential candidate honestly. She grew up Muslim in the Middle East, surrounded, she says by the Muslim Ummah, or community.

"I liked kind of having an environment where there was always somebody to count on," she said. "There was always somebody there, you know. It's part of a tradition." 

Everything growing up, she said, was done in solidarity. Neighbours, friends, family all helped each other. And Abedin said she experienced that again when she found herself in what she calls "Hillaryland." 

The sense of community was there, she said. People genuinely cared how their colleagues were feeling, cared about their families, and they wanted them to succeed. 

"As women were climbing up, as they were, you know, accelerating their own place in the professional world, the culture there was [that] you pulled everyone…  the lowest of us up, too," she said. "And so to have that community was something that, you know, really just became core to my life."

Abedin and Clinton. Throughout her new memoir, Abedin is unfailingly loyal to and supportive of Clinton. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated PRess)
 

The final straw

Abedin said she also stayed loyal to Weiner initially because she thought it would be best for her son. Having lost her own father to illness as a young child, she wanted to save him from a similar fate. 

"I wanted to do every possible thing for my child — give my child that opportunity to have a house with two parents in it," she said.

She says she was shamed in the street and lost friends over her public support of her husband. 

Still, the final straw didn't come until 2016. She left him after a photo surfaced of Weiner sexting someone with their sleeping toddler by his side. 

Weiner later admitted that he was sending photos and sexting with 15-year-old girl. He eventually pleaded guilty to one charge of transferring obscene material to a minor and was sentenced to nearly two years in prison. 

'Writing my own history'

But before that, during the police investigation, emails that may have been linked to Clinton's private email server were found on his laptop, and less than two weeks before Americans were to go to the polls in 2016, Comey told Congress the agency was reopening its investigation into Clinton's private server

"I will never understand why that decision was made," Abedin said.

The reaction was explosive. Clinton's support fell. And then, two days before the vote, the FBI said the investigation turned up nothing, and was closed. 

She said she's glad she waited to write her book, saying it would have been "much angrier," if she'd written it after the election.

"I think there would have been a lot more bitternessI have now reclaimed my own story, my own truth," she said.

"For 25 years, everyone else has been writing my story, and now I'm writing my own history."


Written by Stephanie Hogan. Interview produced by Sarah-Joyce Battersby. The Sunday Magazine's interview with Abedin will air Nov. 21 on CBC Radio One.

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