Weiner seeks treatment amid concerted pressure to resign

Asks to take brief leave of absence

NANCY PELOSI’S ADVICE “I urge [Weiner] to seek that help without. . . being a member of Congress,” said the House minority leader. NANCY PELOSI’S ADVICE
“I urge [Weiner] to seek that help without. . . being a member of Congress,” said the House minority leader.
By Raymond Hernandez and Michael Barbaro
New York Times / June 12, 2011

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NEW YORK — Defying forceful demands for his resignation, Representative Anthony D. Weiner of New York said yesterday that he was entering a psychological treatment center and seeking a leave of absence from the House to deal with a pattern of reckless online behavior with women.

The announcement came as the three top Democratic leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, declared that the 46-year-old lawmaker, once a rising star in the party, needed counseling and should step down from Congress.

Pressure on Weiner to leave the House, and spare the Democratic Party from an increasingly embarrassing scandal, has been building all week, but intensified Friday, after it was revealed that the congressman had traded private messages with a 17-year-old girl in Delaware.

Weiner, who friends say has become distraught and fragile in recent days, will use the leave to think about his future and whether to leave Congress, a possibility he has not entirely ruled out, a person close to him said.

But Weiner’s plan did not satisfy exasperated Democratic leaders, who have been trying to convince him that he is damaging himself, his family, and his party by remaining a member of the House.

Pelosi spoke to Weiner on the phone yesterday morning and, notably, released her statement calling for his resignation after he told her of his plan to get treatment and take the leave. Weiner has admitted having explicit communications with six women he met online.

Pelosi said he “has the love of his family, the confidence of his constituents, and the recognition that he needs help. I urge Congressman Weiner to seek that help without the pressures of being a member of Congress.’’

Weiner has been talking with a therapist in New York City over the last couple of days, as fallout from his online sex scandal worsened and he absorbed the message from his colleagues and advisers that his conduct reflected not just bad judgment but perhaps a psychological problem.

“Congressman Weiner departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,’’ said his spokeswoman, Risa Heller. “In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well.’’

Heller would not identify the facility or the precise kind of counseling Weiner would receive. She stressed that he was carefully considering the calls from his fellow lawmakers urging him to give up his seat.

Weiner has been resistant in phone calls over the past week with Pelosi and Representative Steven J. Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who have been pushing him to quit and warning him that, if he did not, they would make their case publicly.

They were especially frustrated, according to one high-ranking Democratic official, when Weiner told them he could not resign now because his wife, Huma Abedein, was traveling abroad with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — an assertion they viewed as an unpersuasive pretext.

Pelosi had hoped that the congressman would reach the decision on his own to go. In addition to her concerns about the political distraction, Pelosi concluded that his behavior required medical intervention.

The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, called Weiner’s salacious activity a “sordid affair.’’ “The behavior he has exhibited is indefensible and Representative Weiner’s continued service in Congress is untenable,’’ she said.

The resignation calls had been building throughout the week, but the report Friday that Weiner corresponded on Twitter with a 17-year-old girl inflamed the situation. A Democratic National Committee official told Weiner’s staff the congressman’s assertion that his exchanges with the high school junior were “neither explicit nor indecent’’ didn’t matter.

Several friends who talked to Weiner last week expressed concern about how he was handling the scandal. Yesterday, he appeared in his Queens neighborhood, visiting a dry cleaner and an ATM, and politely deflected questions from reporters.

Weiner must submit his request for the leave in writing. The letter will be presented on the House floor and recorded, without a vote.