NEW YORK – New York Rep. Anthony Weiner was a nearly ubiquitous media presence last week, making the rounds of TV news shows to protest his innocence: No, he said repeatedly, he did not tweet a sexually suggestive photo of himself from the waist down to a Seattle college student. Perhaps his Twitter account had been hacked.
But Monday, in a teary news conference in New York City, Weiner, 46, fessed up. He said he had lied repeatedly out of embarrassment and shame. He had indeed sent the photo to the woman in Seattle, and also had inappropriate online contact with several others over the past three years.
“I did a regrettable thing, and for that I apologize,” Weiner said. “I believe what I did demonstrates a deep personal failing.”
Weiner, who has long been expected to run for mayor of New York City in 2013, said he would not resign, but would let his constituents decide his fate. It was not immediately clear whether congressional Democrats would react as harshly as Republicans did in February when faced with a similar scandal. They pressured New York Rep. Chris Lee to step down after the married congressman sent a shirtless cellphone photograph of himself to a woman he met on Craigslist.
So far, no Democrats have publicly urged Weiner to resign. But House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and other party officials called for an Ethics Committee investigation to determine whether any official resources were used or any other violation of House rules occurred. Weiner, who told reporters that Pelosi had urged him in a phone call to tell the truth and expressed her disappointment in him, said later he welcomed the investigation.
Before Weiner appeared, Andrew Breitbart, whose conservative news websites had broken the story about Weiner’s sexually charged tweets, crashed the news conference. Angry that Weiner’s supporters had accused him of hacking the congressman’s account, Breitbart took over the hotel microphone for about six minutes.
“Quite frankly I’d like an apology for him being complicit in a blame-the-messenger strategy,” Breitbart said. “So I’m here for some vindication.”
Breitbart, whose site on Monday had posted a bare-chested photo of Weiner obtained from a second woman, said he had another potentially damaging photograph of Weiner, but would not release it “to save his family.”
ABC News reported that it had an interview with a second woman claiming a “sexually charged electronic relationship” with Weiner. She was identified as a 26-year-old single mother in Texas, apparently the same person from whom Breitbart obtained the bare-chested photo of Weiner. ABC said the woman had provided photos, emails and Facebook messages, and that her interactions with Weiner had begun on April 20.
Weiner’s voice broke nearly every time he mentioned his wife, Huma Abedin, an assistant to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Former President Bill Clinton officiated at the couple’s lavish Long Island wedding last July 10.
“My wife is a remarkable woman,” said a contrite Weiner, who is often described as brash bordering on arrogant. “She is not responsible for any of this … and I apologize to her, very deeply.”
The effect the scandal will have on Weiner’s career is hard to predict. The seven-term congressman has repeatedly won re-election in his Brooklyn and Queens district by a wide margin.
Hank Sheinkof, a longtime New York Democratic strategist, said Weiner had ruined his chances to succeed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “It’s too embarrassing,” Sheinkof said. “The requirements for the second-toughest job in America do not include sexting.”