Rockaway residents spent some time late Monday afternoon transfixed by the television screen as their Congressman, Anthony Weiner, told the world that he sent pervy pictures of himself to at least six women over the Internet and on his Blackberry phone and then lied about it to the public for several days until the case against him became so compelling that he had to come clean – and apologize to his constituents.
“I have made terrible mistakes that have hurt the people I care about most,” Weiner said at his news conference. “I regret not being honest about this. I was humiliated and trying to protect my wife.” Weiner, however, vowed to weather the storm and continue on as a Congressman.
“I don’t believe that I did anything that broke a law,” he said, vowing not to quit his seat. “I did nothing that violates my oath to my constituents.”
As word spread throughout the peninsula, however, many locals, even those who professed to have voted for him in his last election, expressed outrage over his Internet antics.
“He has to go,” said a woman, who would only identify herself as Barbara and who was at Fort Tilden for a little league game. The chatter at the four ball fields was not about the games, but about Weiner and his press conference, which had ended just minutes before. “That’s just plain stupid and you don’t want somebody who would do that representing you in Congress.”
“I am really outraged,” said Tom Murphy, whose child was playing in a T-Ball game. “I voted for him, and he violated my trust. I wouldn’t do something like that, and I certainly don’t expect my representatives to act that way. He showed that he is unstable and therefore not qualified to serve.”
Others were just saddened by Weiner’s extracurricular activities.
“I thought he was different,” said Kara Thompson. “I thought that he was for real, and he’s just like all the others.” Thompson added that she did not think that he should resign, however.
“What he did was outrageously stupid, but it wasn’t criminal,” she said.
Weiner vowed to go directly to voters to defend himself, as House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called for an ethics investigation.
“I’m going to go back to work and I’m going to try to convince them that this was a personal failing,” he said. “There wasn’t anything about this, I would say, that changes my ability or my record of getting bills passed or filling potholes or fulfilling community service.”
In a prepared statement on Monday afternoon, Weiner said, “I welcome and will fully cooperate with an investigation by the House Ethics Committee. I am deeply sorry to my family, staff and constituents.”
At that time, House Democratic leaders hadn’t publicly demanded Weiner resign after admitting he sent suggestive photos of himself in his underwear via Twitter and then lied about it to everyone within earshot.
But they’ve since made it clear they’d appreciate it if he’d go away. And soon.
In published statements within an hour of Weiner’s stunning admission on Monday, not a single Democrat volunteered support for the man long mentioned as a possible future mayor of New York. And notably, none chose to comment on his defiant vow: “I am not resigning.”
Representative Nancy Pelosi, the party leader, said she was “disappointed and saddened.” She and other Democrats called for an ethics committee investigation to determine whether Weiner had broken any House rules.
Other Democrats said they agreed.
Purely in political terms, violating House rules would be the least of the woes Weiner has inflicted on his party, currently trying to make the case that Republican policies fall harshly on female voters.
By his own admission, he behaved badly toward women, describing a series of sexually-infused exchanges via Twitter over the past three years.
“I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, email and occasionally on the phone with women I had met online,” he said at his news conference in New York. “I’ve exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years,” he said, although he quickly added he had not met any of the women or “had physical relationships at any time.”
So far, three of the women have come forward and provided lewd photos and emails that came from Weiner.
Meagan Broussard, a 26-year-old single mom from Texas, who provided the photos that Weiner at first said he did not send.
Lisa Weiss, a 40-year-old blackjack dealer in Las Vegas, who says she sexted with Weiner for nine months, beginning last August.
Ginger Lee, a former porn star who allegedly sexted with
Weiner for months and provided the photos of the Congressman that appeared on TMZ.
Senator Chuck Schumer defended Weiner a week ago, based on the Congressman’s assurances that he had not been involved in the photo sent via Twitter.
A few hours after Weiner’s news conference, Schumer said in a statement that Weiner “remains a talented and committed public servant, and I pray he and his family can get through these difficult times.”
Schumer did not say whether Weiner should remain in
Congress. But his spokesman, Brian Fallon, said the senator thinks “that should be up to his constituents to decide.”
By Wednesday, however, a number of his Democratic colleagues had begun to move away from Weiner, calling on him to resign, especially when the news of his wife’s pregnancy broke on the New York Times website and a hazy but recognizable photo of his member that he sent via email was revealed online.
One man at Fort Tilden who was watching the Pirates play the Reds on Monday night summed it up for many at the field.
“New Yorkers forget fast,” he said. “Weiner will survive this and be reelected. As for mayor in 2013, forget about it.”
Conservative columnist Joanna Molloy, writing in the Daily News on Wednesday, put Weiner’s actions in perspective.
“So, Anthony Weiner’s reputation – and probably his career – are totally ruined, and he didn’t even get any sex,” she wrote.
That sums up the feelings of many locals this week.