It sounds like a plot line straight out of the TV show "Scandal:" In the midst of an attempted comeback, a disgraced politician finds himself tarred by a fresh round of lurid revelations.
But Anthony Weiner may have outdone any scriptwriter's imagination with the creation of his sexting alter ego, Carlos Danger. And even Olivia Pope, the elite crisis manager in "Scandal," might have a tough time salvaging Weiner's bid for New York City mayor.
If the latest furor surrounding Weiner feels like deja vu, that's because a lot of political sex scandals seem to follow a familiar pattern, although not always with the same outcome.
Here's a look at the typical life cycle of a sex scandal:
The allegations emerge
In the traditional model, a scandal surfaces in the press. Allegations plastered across the front page of a newspaper make the politician concerned spit out his morning coffee and grasp for the phone.
Newspaper reporters may have gotten their information directly from an accuser involved in the scandal, or from official documents.
Legal records about former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who was arrested at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in 2007, went unnoticed by national media for weeks until the Washington-based paper Roll Call brought them to light. Craig pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct after a police officer alleged the senator attempted to solicit sex from him in a bathroom.
But social media are upending the way scandals erupt. In Weiner's case, a stray tweet caused the first uproar, and a gossip blog set off the second.
The variety of news sources subjects politicians to greater scrutiny than ever, but it can also make it harder to separate fact from fiction.
The strenuous denial
With allegations swirling, a high-profile figure has to decide how to react. A public denial, sometimes tinged with anger or outrage at the scurrilous nature of the accusations, is often the go-to response.
During his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Herman Cain went one step further -- denying he had had a 13-year affair with a woman before the accusation had even been made public.
But the preemptive strike failed to save Cain's presidential bid -- he suspended his campaign soon after.
"Denials are expected and will do little to turn the tide," says Judy Smith, the high-profile Washington crisis manager on whom the Olivia Pope character in "Scandal" is partly based.
But the apparent ineffectiveness of denials doesn't seem to stop politicians from making them, sometimes to a point where they set themselves up for an even bigger fall.
Setting the gold standard for flawed denials of sex scandals is former President Bill Clinton's infamous "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."
His attempts to refute allegations about his affair with Monica Lewinsky ended up with him facing impeachment by the House of Representatives.
Admission and contrition
In cases where the evidence of a scandal begins to overwhelm a politician's defenses, the smarter tactic often appears to be to fess up and deal with the consequences.
When a journalist from Hustler magazine contacted Louisiana Sen. David Vitter in 2007 after finding his number on the client list of a Washington prostitution ring, Vitter promptly made a public admission of a "serious sin."
He rode out the ensuing furor and retained his Senate seat in 2010.
"Vitter is an excellent example of how if you admit quickly, you deny a longer news cycle about the scandal," said Alison Dagnes of Shippensburg University, who wrote the book "Sex Scandals in American Politics."
"Get it done and over with, or else the story goes on and on," she said.
That's an approach Weiner failed to adopt the first time around, initially suggesting that his Twitter account may have been hacked and thus dragging out the embarrassment.