Unaccompanied by his wife, Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., announced on Thursday that he has resigned from his House seat, apologizing for the drawn-out political scandal over his X-rated Internet indiscretions that he says has caused damage to his family, colleagues, and constituents—as well as his career.
“I am here to again apologize for the personal mistakes I’ve made, and the embarrassment I’ve caused,” said Weiner, appearing dejected yet speaking clearly at a news conference in Brooklyn. Weiner emphasized that he apologizes “first and foremost” to his wife Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Weiner said he’d hoped to continue his work in Congress, describing it as no higher calling in a Democracy. But, "unfortunately, the distraction that I have created” has made continuing “impossible.”
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“So today I am announcing my resignation from Congress.” He said he was doing it “so my colleagues can get back to work” and that, “most importantly, so that I can continue to heal from the damage that I caused.”
As Weiner spoke, a heckler repeatedly yelled out from the crowd, including several times calling the disgraced congressman “Pervert!” There were early reports the man was a Howard Stern staffer.
Weiner’s decision came after nearly two weeks of painfully trying to resist the mounting calls for him to step aside that even drew in President Obama.
After Weiner’s announcement, other House Democrats including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who had been among those calling for his resignation, said they felt sorrow, but that it was the right decision for Weiner, 46, and his family.
“Congressman Weiner exercised poor judgment in his actions and poor judgment in his reaction to the revelations. Today, he made the right judgment in resigning,” said Pelosi. “I pray for him and his family and wish them well.”
House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson, D-Conn.: “It’s difficult to watch the self-destruction of a friend, and to witness the breaking of hearts over what can only be categorized as reprehensible behavior and bad judgment.… I hope that he will get the help he needs and that together they [Weiner and his wife] will work their way through this.”
Weiner will remain eligible to draw a congressional pension. Calculations by the National Taxpayers Union determined that Weiner will have an annual $46,224 pension if he waits until age 62 to draw it. If he waits only until age 56, that amount would be $32,357 a year. In addition, lawmakers enrolled in Congressional pension plans can participate in the federal Thrift Savings Plan, a defined-contribution arrangement that works like a 401 (k) retirement plan. Weiner’s potential Thrift Savings Plan balance is $216,011.
Weiner’s recently hired publicist Risa Heller did not return messages as to the whereabouts of Weiner’s wife during the news conference. The couple is expecting a child.
Weiner informed Pelosi of his decision on Wednesday night, while she and other members of Congress were at the White House attending a congressional picnic.
Weiner succumbed to pressure from every corner of the Washington political matrix, from Obama to House Speaker John Boehner, who joined the fray this week after withholding comment as Weiner's fellow Democrats, led by Pelosi, failed to exert the requisite pressure.
Weiner, who represents part of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City, was a hero to many liberals and a ubiquitous presence on cable TV, loudly and defiantly defending the values and positions of the political left.
For the last two weeks, however, he has been dealing with a crisis born out of revelations about his tragicomic obsession with sexting that drove him to send lewd pictures of himself and engage in sexual banter with women on social-networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Weiner’s decision to finally step down comes after a tortured series of events that had him insisting he either didn’t do things that he did or wouldn’t do something he just did. He had steadfastly said early on that he would not resign.
But his problems grew more complicated in recent days when he admitted through a nongovernment spokesman last Friday that he had engaged in Internet conversations with a 17-year-old Delaware girl. That statement came after local police had interviewed the girl about her contact with Weiner.
Weiner—suddenly responding to the news only through a public-relations consultant and no longer through his congressional staff—insisted that the Internet conversations were not sexual or inappropriate. But the mere fact he had had such contact with a teen seemed to bring his troubles to a critical mass, and prompted Pelosi and other top Democrats to join the calls for him to resign.
Instead, Weiner announced through his publicist on Saturday that he would be seeking a leave of absence from Congress to get professional treatment, to help him get well and make the best decision for himself, his family, and his constituents.
But even then came the surfacing of more lewd photos that the congressman reportedly sent to a woman, prompting added unease among his colleagues over whether his troubles were significantly staining Democrats politically and overshadowing their legislative work, such as efforts to combat GOP Medicare proposals.
Weiner did request and receive his two-week leave on Monday, but his case for wanting to wait to get treatment to decide on his future certainly wasn’t helped when Obama told NBC on Monday that he would resign if he were Weiner. There also came word that the House Ethics Committee was looking into his activities.
By Tuesday morning, talk from colleagues was that he finally was seriously considering resigning, but waiting to first talk to his wife about it. Abedin had been traveling overseas with Clinton through Wednesday.
Weiner’s troubles began two weeks ago when he accidentally published an erotic photograph of himself on Twitter instead of sending it privately to a college student as he had intended. Initially, Weiner denied that he had sent the photograph and claimed that someone had hacked his Twitter account.
Weiner had hoped to finish his seventh term in Congress before running again for New York City mayor in 2013—where his road to victory was anything but certain or clear. Weiner finished second in the 2005 Democratic primary to Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and appeared intent on fueling his bid for mayor with TV appearances and the campaign cash they tend to generate, but those dreams now seem remote, as Weiner’s political career lies in the smoking ruins of his libidinous tweets and lewd Facebook messages he exchanged with women he met online.
Weiner was forced to confront the reality that his political future was in shambles.
Some Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., predictably were early in calling for Weiner’s resignation. But that is not what pushed Weiner over the resignation cliff.
More likely, he surveyed the landscape, with what seemed to be new details and revelations about his tawdry virtual dealings with women who were not his wife, and found that few House Democrats had any appetite for him to stick around.
Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., who is in charge of recruitment for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was one of the first Democrats last week to call on Weiner to step aside. Also early were Reps. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., Mike Ross, D-Ark., Larry Kissell, D-N.C., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.
And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., may have helped to hammer home the notion for Weiner that he was pretty much alone. Although he stopped short of saying Weiner should resign, he told reporters last week, “I wish there was some way I can defend him, but I can’t.” And when asked what advice he would give Weiner if asked, Reid responded, “Call somebody else.”
Though she did not call for his resignation until Saturday, Pelosi had been out front last week in publicly requesting that the House Ethics Committee investigate Weiner’s activities.
The tipping point appeared to be Friday, when a relative of the Delaware girl told The New York Times that the messages were “harmless,” but according to the Times, “expressed concern that Mr. Weiner had communicated privately with the teenager, a high school junior.”
Then came Sunday’s partially naked photos of Weiner posted on the Internet by TMZ.com, which it said were taken from the House members' gym.
As with so much in the Weiner saga, it’s impossible not to be funny or sound funny—even when you don’t want to be and especially when none of Weiner’s Democratic colleagues find this situation the least bit mirthful. In fact, “stomach-churning” is the phrase most commonly uttered in Democratic circles, where—until Weiner resigned—a sense of dismay and powerlessness mix toxically with anger and revulsion.
Weiner’s journey from the unknown congressman from Brooklyn to cable TV “political celebrity” looked pretty vanilla in the annals of get-on-TV-make-a-name-for-yourself identity politics practiced by an avid minority of Democrats and Republicans. And Weiner has never been self-conscious about his name: At the State University of New York (Plattsburgh), he ran for student government with the slogan “Vote for Weiner—he’ll be frank.”
Legislatively, Weiner was always a bit of a cipher. He did sponsor a bill in 2007 to create an online registry of sex offenders’ e-mail addresses, and the House passed a bill of his in 2008 to reduce illegal cigarette sales.
Elected in 1998, Weiner seemed intent on serving his Brooklyn constituents principally on TV and laying the groundwork for his next bid for mayor.
But Weiner’s cable exploits—on politics and in policy—brought him visibility and a degree of caucus fame. He routinely appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN to do battle with Republican colleagues or, on occasion, cable anchors. (Until his sexting scandal, Weiner’s best-known TV exploits were with Fox anchor Megyn Kelly—the “cat fights” are something of a YouTube legend.) Weiner came to the Capitol as an aide to then-Rep. Charles Schumer, and learned from his aggressive and TV-savvy boss that few things accumulated power and prestige faster than an elevated media profile.