Weiner admits sending lewd photo; won’t resign

Pelosi calls for House ethics investigation

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By Michael Barbaro
New York Times / June 7, 2011

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NEW YORK — Representative Anthony D. Weiner, a rising star in Democratic politics who has long aspired to be mayor of New York City, admitted yesterday to having inappropriate online exchanges with at least six women and repeatedly lying about his role in sending a sexually suggestive photograph to a young woman over Twitter last month.

After a week of sometimes indignant public denials and insistence that he was the victim of an Internet hacker, a weeping and stammering Weiner, 46, acknowledged at a news conference that he had sent the photo of himself in his underwear to the woman in Seattle.

The six-term congressman from Brooklyn insisted that he had broken no laws and vowed to remain in office, calling the matter an “aberration from which I’ve learned.’’

During an extraordinary 27-minute appearance, the congressman went on to describe a side of his life that he had kept secret from his closest confidants and family members, in which he befriended young female admirers over the Internet and engaged in intimate sexual banter with them.

“Over the past few years, I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and occasionally on the phone with women I had met online,’’ Weiner said.

Weiner said he had never met in person the women with whom he corresponded and added: “I don’t know what I was thinking. This was a destructive thing to do. I’m apologetic for doing it.’’

But Weiner’s political standing appeared in grave danger after his news conference. There was a striking absence of any public expressions of support from his colleagues, and the House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi, called for an ethics investigation into Weiner’s conduct.

“I am deeply disappointed and saddened about this situation,’’ she said.

House ethics rules state that members should conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.’’

Weiner’s public confession was prompted yesterday when Andrew Breitbart, a conservative blogger and provocative critic of the left, followed through on a vow to publish photographs of Weiner that the congressman had sent to a woman online.

As Breitbart began to unveil the photos one by one, from midmorning until early afternoon, Weiner’s staff seemed paralyzed, failing to answer questions or challenge the authenticity of the photographs.

One of the pictures showed Weiner, his wedding ring visible, holding up a sign identifying himself to the woman, who had expressed skepticism that she was exchanging messages with the congressman. The most explicit featured Weiner, barechested at his home computer, with a row of family photos arranged behind him.

Weiner had gained renown for his devoted and deft use of social media like Twitter and Facebook, cultivating thousands of admiring followers with a near-constant stream of political riffs and punchy one-liners.

In the end, however, it was his reckless approach to those online tools that led to his undoing.

At the news conference, he said that the online relationships with the women had begun three years ago and that several of them began after he was married in July to Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a grand service officiated by former President Bill Clinton.

Although he repeatedly emphasized his failings, Weiner stressed that he had not had physical contact with any of the six women and said he believed they were all adults.

“At least to the extent of my knowledge,’’ he said, when pressed about their ages and the tendency toward exaggeration on the Web. At another point, Weiner declared: “I’ve never had sex outside of my marriage.’’

He repeatedly apologized to his wife, who, unlike other spouses of misbehaving male politicians, did not appear at his side: “I love my wife very much, and we have no intention of splitting up over this. We have been through a great deal together, and we will — we will weather this. I love her very much, and she loves me.’’

The congressman said his wife had known about some of his online connections with the women. But it was not until yesterday that he told her he had sent the photo to the woman in Seattle.