Beleaguered Rep. Anthony Weiner ended nearly three weeks of political tumult Thursday by announcing his resignation, leaving observers stunned at how his bright future could disintegrate so unexpectedly.
“Today I’m announcing my resignation from Congress, so my colleagues can get back to work, my neighbors can choose a new representative and, most importantly, so that my wife and I can continue to heal from the damage I have caused,” Weiner said at the senior center in Sheepshead Bay where he launched his political career in 1991.
The perpetually energized Weiner, 46, stood alone on a podium and was stone-faced as he told the packed room that he was quitting because “the distraction that I have created has made” it impossible to serve in Congress.
His brief speech was a stark departure from his emotional June 6 back-and-forth with reporters, in which he admitted to lying about sending lewd pictures and raunchy online messages to several women during the past three years.
“I want to express my gratitude to my family: to my mother and father … and, of course, to my wife, Huma, who has stood with me in this entire difficult period,” said Weiner, who reportedly is in rehab for sex addiction.
Huma Abedin, 34, his wife of nearly a year, is pregnant and did not attend Thursday’s press conference. A top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Abedin reportedly convinced Weiner to quit after top Dems, including President Barack Obama, signaled that it was time for him to go.
It was a monumental fall for the seven-term congressman, who built an impressive career, first as the youngest city councilman at age 27, then as a nationally recognized legislator with a solid shot at becoming New York’s mayor in 2013.
“He had the potential to go far. He had it all — and lost it all,” said Democratic strategist George Arzt.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it a “tragic” ending for Weiner. But former Mayor Ed Koch said: “He had no friends in Congress. If there are no friends, how can you be a rising star?”
Recent polls still showed support for the embattled congressman in the 9th District, which straddles Brooklyn and Queens.
“He could have been very big in government,” said Weiner supporter Elizabeth Viggiano, 79, of Gravesend. “It’s sad to see this thing happen.”
During Rep. Anthony Weiner's 26 years in politics, he has been seen as a tenacious fighter, and his meteoric rise in the Democratic party star is matched only by his colossal downfall. Here are some of his career milestones:
1981: Graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School
1985: Graduated from SUNY-Plattsburgh with a B.A. in political science
1980s: Rents a Delaware beach house with funnyman Jon Stewart, a longtime friend.
1985: Immediately after graduating, went to work for then-Rep. Charles Schumer at his D.C. office
1988: Moved to Schumer's Brooklyn office at the congressman's behest
1991: At age 27, elected to City Council, becoming the youngest councilmember ever to serve at that time
1998: Schumer leaves his 9th District seat for a Senate run, and Weiner is elected his replacement
2000: Weiner's 39-year-old brother, Seth, killed in Virginia in a hit-and-run accident while crossing a busy highway
2005: Weiner mounts an unsuccessful run for mayor
2008-09: Buzz of another mayoral run heats up, but Weiner backs down when Mayor Michael Bloomberg persuades City Council to drop term limits.
2008: Front-page New York Times story portrays him as exceptionally demanding boss with high staff turnover.
2010: Weiner marries longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin; former President Bill Clinton officiates the wedding
March 2010: Roll Call story exposes that Weiner owes thousands of dollars in parking violation fines.
July 29, 2010: Give impassioned speech castigating Republicans for opposing 9/11 health bill, vaulting him to national prominence.
May 27, 2011: Rep. Weiner accidentally tweets the lewd photo that sparks "Weinergate" and his eventual downfall
June 3: In rambling Sheraton apology, admits photo was of him, and cops to online inappropriate contact with at least six women. Leaves office 13 days later.