NEW YORK — The woman at the center of the Anthony Weiner scandal is a 23-year-old Indiana native who is passionate about politics, and was a strong supporter of the New York politician even after he resigned from Congress amid similar circumstances two years ago, a friend said Wednesday.
Sydney Elaine Leathers actively posts about politics and her Democratic views on Facebook. That’s where she met Lou Colagiovanni, a political blogger and writer who moderates a political Facebook page where Leathers frequently posted messages.
“She absolutely idealized this man,” Colagiovanni told CNN of the respect Leathers had for Weiner, now running for New York mayor.
The gossip website TheDirty.com on Tuesday published a collection of sexual messages and blurred photos between Weiner and a woman the site did not identify. Weiner admitted later Tuesday to engaging in the lewd chats and apologized, though calls are now pouring in for him to withdraw from the race.
The website Buzzfeed, in a story Wednesday, was the first to identify Leathers by name as the woman behind the messages.
Colagiovanni showed CNN unblurred versions of the same messages and photos released by TheDirty.com that also show Leathers is the woman with whom Weiner was corresponding.
According to Colagiovanni, Leathers first told him about her online relationship with the former congressman in April, after it was already over. She said the relationship began “post-scandal” — after Weiner resigned from Congress in June 2011 — and went on for months. Colagiovanni said it lasted at least eight months and maybe as long as a year.
Colagiovanni gave CNN a copy of the Facebook conversations he had with Leathers in which she described the relationship. He also shared lewd e-mails that Leathers forwarded from Weiner, written under his alias, Carlos Danger.
Leathers told Colagiovanni in their Facebook conversations that she and the congressman had phone sex, texted, e-mailed and sent each other nude pictures of themselves.
“We talked ALL the time,” Leathers wrote to Colagiovanni. “He even called in August, knowing I was on a train to Chicago, just to tell me about a sex dream he had about me. He did that kind of thing a lot. He was also obsessed with me wearing heels lol.”
But by April of this year, things had turned sour, and Leathers felt let down and disappointed by the man she once held in high regard, Colagiovanni said.
“Sydney loved him but then she fell out of love with him because the idealized vision in which she had of him was not true, was not the case,” he told CNN. “She became disgusted with him after finding out that the person who she thought she was in love with was not indeed that person.”
Colagiovanni, who said he has been involved in dozens of political campaigns around the country and works as a media consultant, said he and Leathers discussed selling the story. He told her she could use it as a “springboard for national attention to ride on to fame and fortune.”
“I hope we make some $ out of it,” she wrote. “There is not a doubt in my mind that we won’t makes (sic) thousands and thousands of dollars,” he replied.
Though it was CNN that contacted Colagiovanni, he said he wanted to share Leathers’ messages to him and her correspondence with Weiner because he felt betrayed.
“I feel this was my story,” he said. “I had cultivated this story. I sat on it for months. I was reluctant to release it because Sydney told me, ‘Listen, I don’t want this story to go out, I don’t want anybody to know about it.’”
He said he asked her about 10 days ago what she was doing with the story, and she still told Colagiovanni she didn’t want anyone to know about it.
“And then as everybody saw on TheDirty.com, the story did come out, so she misled me in her ideas of what she wanted to have happen here,” Colagiovanni said. “So why I’m talking to you now is, I want my story to get out there.”
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