2011-06-17 / Top Stories

Weiner Steps Down, Citing ‘Political Distraction’

By Howard Schwach

Weiner at a meeting earlier this year at a Rockaway senior center. Weiner at a meeting earlier this year at a Rockaway senior center. Rockaway’s Representative in Congress, Anthony Weiner, stepped down on Thursday afternoon from his legislative seat in the wake of intense pressure from politicians and constituents concerned with his sexually-based social media obsession, sexting at least six women with lewd pictures of himself and then lying about it when the story broke on a Conservationconservative Republican blog.

Until Thursday, Weiner had remained resistant to resigning, however, ignoring calls from colleagues and Democratic Party officials to quit and a statement by President Barack Obama that he’d resign if he were in Weiner’s shoes.

At his resignation press conference in Brooklyn, Weiner praised the people of the Ninth Congressional District, calling them “hard working, opinionated, patriotic and loyal.”

“They are a middle class story, as am I,” he added.

He said that he was resigning because he had become a “distraction” and so that “my constituents can choose a new Congressman to represent them.”

“I got into politics to give voice to those who had no voice,” he concluded. “Now, I’m going to have to find a new way to do that.”

He took no questions from the dozens of reporters at the news conference.

Despite his admission more than a week ago, a poll of his constituents last week showed that the great majority, 70 percent, said that, while what Weiner did was “reprehensible,” he did nothing illegal and should not be censured or forced from office.

At the same time, a national poll showed that sixty percent of American voters wanted him gone and that only eight percent had “a favourable opinion” of the New York legislator.

Support in his district began to drop earlier this week in the wake of new photos that he took of himself in the House gym, reports that he texted with a teenaged girl and photos of him in a bra and panty hose.

Many who had previously supported him began to change their minds.

“There’s just too much there,” said one previous supporter, who asked that a letter of support he sent The Wave last week not be published. “I have known him for 20 years, and worked with him on numerous occasions, and this is just sad and disheartening.”

On Tuesday, with the House back in session after a week-long break, Democrats were wrestling with how to put the embarrassing online sex scandal behind them.

Democrats met behind closed doors Tuesday for the first time since the New York congressman admitted to sexually charged online relationships with several women and lying to hide his misdeeds.

Frustration among Democrats was increasing as the scandal moved into its third week.

Going into the meeting, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., told reporters, “Hopefully, we’re hearing he might resign in a couple of days.” She did not elaborate.

Obama’s blunt words helped push Weiner out the door, insiders say.

“I can tell you that if it was me, I would resign,” Obama told NBC’s “Today” show.

In a rare foray into any congressperson’s ethical conduct, Obama said Weiner’s actions were “highly inappropriate.”

“I think he’s embarrassed himself. He’s acknowledged that. He’s embarrassed his wife and his family. Ultimately, there’s going to be a decision for him and his constituents,” Obama said.

The cascade of raunchy photos and other revelations about the 46-year-old married congressman has been a distraction for Democrats seeking an edge as they look ahead to the 2012 elections. Besides Pelosi, several other Democrats have called for Weiner to quit, including party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Congress returned to work Monday and the House quickly approved without objection a two-week leave of absence for Weiner.

The congressman is said to be in treatment for an undisclosed disorder at an undisclosed location, but his spokeswoman has declined to provide information on his whereabouts.

A top Democratic officials told The New York Times on Thursday morning that Weiner called Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Steve Israel on Wednesday night to inform them that he was going to step down.

According to the high-placed source, he told them that it no longer seemed fair to his constituents and his colleagues to stay in office.

Weiner came to that decision, the source told The Times, after long discussions with his wife, Huma Abedin, after her return from abroad on a trip with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Sources at Weiner’s Washington, D.C. office said that his office in the Congressional Office Building had been cleaned out early on Thursday morning.

“We shut and locked the door,” the source said. “It was sad.”

Could Weiner come back and run for mayor in 2013?

“Everybody loves a comeback story,” said Dana Bash, a reporter for CNN News. “He has a big war chest, and I would not be surprised if we see him some day running for some other office.”

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