Anthony Weiner resigns from Congress after sexting scandal

3:32 PM, Jun 16, 2011   |    comments
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Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY)

Washington (CNN) -- Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned from office Thursday, saying, "Unfortunately, the distraction that I have created" has made it "impossible" to continue his work in Congress.

Weiner apologized "for the personal mistakes I have made and for the embarrassment I have caused" to his neighbors, his constituents, and his wife.

Some House colleagues from New York had offered their farewells to Weiner even before he met the news media on Thursday afternoon.

"There is life after Congress for Anthony Weiner and I hope he devotes himself to repairing the damage he caused to his personal life," said Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey, who attended the congressman's wedding last year to Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Republican Rep. Peter King, who once engaged in a shouting match with Weiner on the House floor, said Weiner had to resign because he would now be ineffective in Congress.

King called Weiner "talented" and said: "I always felt he was so ambitious, so driven to succeed, that apart from morality or anything else, that he would never leave himself so exposed, as he's done, so literally."

Weiner, 46, was considered a possible front-runner to succeed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2013 until the revelation in late May of his online communications, including lewd photos of himself he sent to women he befriended on Facebook and Twitter.

After initially claiming that his account had been hacked, Weiner eventually admitted that he sent the picture and had engaged in several inappropriate relationships with women he met online.

Weiner called fellow New York Rep. Steve Israel on Wednesday to tell him he was going to resign. Israel, who was at a White House picnic for Congress members, then got Weiner on the phone with Pelosi, D-California, who also was at the White House event, a source familiar with that conversation said.

Israel and Pelosi went near a tree on the White House grounds to talk to Weiner in private, the source said. Weiner told them that he was resigning and was very remorseful about what he did to his family and his colleagues, especially for causing such a distraction, the source added.

Weiner also told Israel and Pelosi that he had talked to his wife, who returned Wednesday from an overseas trip with Secretary Clinton. Abedin is pregnant with the couple's first child.

Pelosi, who has called for Weiner to resign, said earlier Thursday that Democratic leaders "respectfully gave him time and his wife came home for them to talk."

To fill Weiner's seat, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo would call a special election. Such a special election took place in New York last month after the resignation in February of Republican Rep. Chris Lee over a Craigslist solicitation that included his shirtless photo.

Back in Weiner's home district, supporters praised the congressman for working on their behalf but criticized his behavior, while opponents said good riddance.

"We really appreciate what he's done for us," said Ruth Rootenberg, a 30-year resident. "What he did on a personal level isn't something we approve of."

As for Weiner's future, Rootenberg said he "had a very good chance at being mayor, but at this point I'm not so sure."

"His constituents are behind him," she said, adding: "There's always a chance."

However, Ruben Noyman said he never voted for Weiner and the congressman's resignation is the "smart thing to do."

"He's a disgrace," Noyman said.

Weiner had announced he was seeking treatment and requested a two-week leave from Congress that was granted without objection.

Top leaders from both parties, including President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, have said or suggested that Weiner should step down over the controversy, which has been a major story since the news emerged in late May.

On Thursday morning, Boehner said he had no information on Weiner's planned resignation but added that the scandal has been "a distraction."

From all indications, the story wasn't going away. On Wednesday, a former adult film actress currently working as a stripper said she exchanged e-mails and Twitter messages with Weiner for more than two months. The woman, whose lawyer identified her as Ginger Lee, said in New York that Weiner asked her to lie about it after the scandal broke.

Lee said that although she initially admired Weiner for his liberal views on Planned Parenthood and health care, her view of the congressman has changed.

"I think that Anthony Weiner should resign because he lied to the public and the press for more than a week," Lee said. "If he lied about this, I can't have much faith in him about anything else."

Her lawyer, Gloria Allred, read some of the scores of e-mails that she said Weiner sent to Lee.

"I have wardrobe demands too," said one, according to Allred. "I need to highlight my package."

Lee said she never reciprocated when Weiner made suggestive comments. Allred said Lee, who is single, never met Weiner and never received any photographs from him.

First elected to the House in 1998 after his political mentor, then-Rep. Chuck Schumer, decided to run for the Senate,

Weiner has been a reliable liberal voice for the solidly Democratic 9th District, encompassing parts of Brooklyn and Queens.

Weiner basically ran unopposed in 2006 and 2008 and won by 22 points over his Republican opponent in 2010, easily avoiding the GOP tidal wave that swept over the House.

As a politician, Weiner fully embraced social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, using the platforms to unleash his comedic take on life and politics.

He graduated from the State University of New York Plattsburgh and worked as an aide to Schumer from 1985 to 1991. A year later, he served on the New York City Council.

He ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic mayoral primary race in 2005. But most observers now feel the scandal has ruined any chance of his being elected mayor in 2013.

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