Rep. Anthony Weiner called House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Steve Israel Wednesday night to inform them that he will be resigning from Congress. The last month has seen Weiner tweet a lewd picture to a 21-year-old college student, lie to the press about it, admit to years of inappropriate online relationships in a tearful press conference and face an ever-growing list of embarrassing revelations about his personal life. Pelosi and Israel, who called on Weiner to step down last weekend and were threatening to strip him of his committee posts, accepted his resignation via cell phone while attending the White House congressional picnic.
Even in the face of a looming ethics investigation, the embattled New York Democrat resisted resignation for weeks. When the tweet first went public, Weiner denied sending the photo, saying his account had been hacked. Then, in a dramatic and cringe-inducing press conference, he admitted that he not only sent the photo, but that he had been “sexting” for three years with upwards of six women that he met on Facebook. He said he never made physical contact with any of them. He also claimed that he believed all of the women were above the age of legal consent, but police last week questioned a 17-year-old Delaware girl in connection with the investigation. Meanwhile, more and more lurid photos of Weiner nude emerged online.
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The seven-term congressman asked for a hiatus from office to seek treatment amid growing cries of outrage from his colleagues. Even President Obama, when asked, said that if he were in Weiner’s shoes, he would resign. Weiner’s few defenders argued that he remained popular with his constituents and that he hadn’t, actually, broken the law in sending salacious messages and photos of himself to women online. In the past, Pelosi has stood by members who’ve done far worse (for example, former Rep. William Jefferson, who stashed $90,000 in a freezer) for longer.
But Democrats were angry that after they’d finally gotten a bit of momentum back for the 2012 elections, Weiner was dominating the news cycle. Tabloids like the New York Post and Daily News gleefully exploited Weiner’s last name — and the bombastic congressman’s lame attempts to laugh off the scandal in the beginning by joking to reporters he’d been “stiff” the day before when he’d refused to talk to them — in a bonanza of sordid headlines. In desperation to get away from the story, Pelosi made the unusual move to begin the process of stripping Weiner of his committee memberships this week in an attempt to force him out.
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As calls for Weiner to step down grew louder, he insisted he wanted to wait for his wife, State Department aide Huma Abedin, to return from a trip abroad with Secretary Hillary Clinton. The couple were married last year and it was reported last week that Abedin is pregnant with their first child. She arrived back in the U.S. Wednesday night.
Republican leaders remained mostly silent on the affair. But when asked Thursday morning about Weiner’s reported resignation, House Speaker John Boehner said it had been “a distraction” and that he looked forward to getting back to more serious matters.