In one of the most bizarre cases in New York political theater, a crestfallen Rep. Anthony Weiner admitted Monday that he lied about sending a lewd photo to a young woman online and was “deeply ashamed” – yet he refused to step down.
“I regret not being honest about this,” said Weiner (D-Brooklyn/Queens). “I was embarrassed. I was humiliated.”
Weiner, 46, appeared choked up and wiped away tears during the rambling 30-minute news conference at the midtown Sheraton. He said he had no “deep explanation” as to why he sent a photo of his underwear-covered erection from his Twitter account on May 27 to a 21-year-old Seattle student. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”
He also admitted to carrying on “frivolous” online correspondence with six women over the past three years.
Weiner, who was married in July 2010, said he never met any of the women. His wife, Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, did not attend the news conference, but a tearful Weiner apologized for doing a “very dumb thing.”
He said “she’s very disappointed,” but “I love her and she loves me … and we have no intention of splitting up.”
The seven-term congressman said he didn’t violate any House rules or his oath of office, although it was unclear whether he used government resources in contacting the women. He said he would “fully cooperate” with an ethics probe called for by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The scandal reached a fevered pitch yesterday, when Andrew Breitbart’s conservative blog, BigGovernment, began releasing photos of Weiner – some shirtless – that were sent to women online. Breitbart fueled the media circus by preempting Weiner’s news conference demanding an apology, which he later got from Weiner.
Observers said the fallout from Weiner’s admission will cripple political aspirations, which may include running for New York City mayor in 2013. He is up for re-election next year.
“The electorate is forgetful, but this is something that’s hard to forget with the right opponent,” said GOP consultant Lynn Krogh.
Political analyst Keli Goff said that because Weiner didn’t blatantly break any laws, he still has the chance to mend his image in Congress.
“He’s going to have to be recognized as a workhorse elected official rather than a showboat elected official,” said Goff, of the TheLoop21.com.
New Yorkers react:
“He lied. Politically, he’s dead. When you cannot trust somebody would you like him to run the city? I don’t think so.” —Chaouki Bousrih, Jackson Heights, 49
“It would be a disservice to remove someone from office for stupid private decisions ... He’s done really great work.” —Claire Dickinson, Park Slope, 26
“He should resign. He should have told the truth the first time. And now six [women]? It’s ridiculous.” —Dieon Devonish, East New York, Eligibility specialist for Medicaid
“Government officials should exemplify what a good person should be. I wouldn’t vote for him.” —Jimmy Chen, Woodside, 23
“More than half of men and women have a double life on Facebook… I don’t think he needs to lose his job, but he shouldn’t go any further.” —Petula Woods, Staten Island, 40