In one moment in the political documentary “Weiner,” Huma Abedin warns her husband’s campaign communications director to not betray her feelings when she walks into a crowd of media reporters curious about a fresh sexting scandal.
“Just a quick optics thing,” Abedin says in the film. “I assume the photographers are still outside, so you will look happy? I’m saying this for you. I don’t want it to be, ‘The press secretary walked out very upset at 6:30.’ ”
It’s a moment that, according to husband and former Congressman Anthony Weiner, shouldn’t have been included in the documentary depicting his failed bid for New York City mayor.
Weiner told the New York Times last week that the documentary’s filmmakers, including former aide Josh Kriegman, had promised in verbal and email communication that Abedin would not appear without her permission in the film, which traces Weiner’s unsuccessful attempt at political rehabilitation after he resigned from Congress in 2011 for sending explicit photos.
“I haven’t told — I haven’t gone here yet with anybody,” Weiner told the paper. “So, they violated the agreement not to use her.”
Abedin not only appears in the film — she plays a starring role. The documentary prominently features Abedin as a behind-the-scenes political strategist for her husband’s campaign, working donors and advising Weiner on his candidacy before a fresh wave of sexting allegations tanks his chances.
“They didn’t have a release,” Weiner said in the interview. “She had to grant permission, which she didn’t.”
Lisa Califf, a spokeswoman for the film, rejected Weiner’s claim in an email to the Times: “As is clear in the film, the filmmakers had consent from everyone who appears in the film, including Anthony and Huma.”
Califf did not respond to questions about whether the consent was obtained in writing.
It’s unclear if Weiner and Abedin expected scenes with her to be omitted from the crew’s footage entirely or how they thought Abedin’s appearances would be cut, though there are occasional moments in the film where the crew is asked to leave the room.
Even when Weiner’s campaign began to spiral downhill, the filming crew largely remained in place, and Weiner said his sense of loyalty to Kriegman meant he “generally wasn’t going to pull the plug” even as his second chance in politics evaporated in the documentary’s viewfinder.
The film was praised by several critics for its behind-the-scenes look at Abedin who, like her longtime boss Hillary Clinton, has often kept the media at arm’s length, whether in her role as the now-Democratic presidential nominee’s body woman or as Weiner’s wife during the scandal that prompted him to step down from Congress.
Weiner told the Times that he and Abedin were furious when they learned she would be depicted in the film, but said he was unsure if they planned to sue. “I mean, who knows what happens in the future,” he told the Times. He added that he still liked Kriegman, saying, “I just think this was a venal thing by someone who’s not venal. I mean, maybe I’ll get over it, maybe I won’t.”