WASHINGTON (AP/WJZ) — Under pressure to resign in a sexting scandal, Rep. Anthony Weiner announced Saturday he was entering professional treatment at an undisclosed location and requested a leave of absence from Congress.
Adam May reports we don’t know where Congressman Weiner is going or for how long, but many of his fellow Democrats said he shouldn’t come back.
“I brought pain to people I care about and who believed in me,” Weiner said.
Less than a week after New York Congressman Weiner admitted to sending sexually explicit photos to at least six women, the rising political star takes a leave of absence.
“I’ve made pretty serious mistakes,” Weiner said. “I need to redeem myself and serve the people of my district the best I can.”
In statement, Weiner says he’s seeking professional treatment to become a better husband and healthier person.
That’s not enough for a growing list of Democratic leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, who are calling on Weiner to resign.
In his home district, polls show only a third of his constituents want him to quit— 56 percent want him to stay.
“He was a voice for things I strongly believe in and now that voice has been taken away,” said one of Weiner’s constituents.
“I think it would be hard for him to gain the people’s trust after something like this,” said another.
Among the people Weiner chatted with was a 17-year-old from Delaware. The girl’s parents called their brief correspondence harmless.
There was “nothing explicit, indecent, nothing inappropriate,” Weiner said.
Police investigators agree, clearing Weiner in this nugget of the scandal, which continues to leave his political future uncertain.
Weiner’s spokeswoman, Risa Heller, said in the statement that the congressman departed during the morning “to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person. 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.”
The statement did not say where he would receive treatment, or what type was involved. Others familiar with his plans said he had left New York by air.
Democrats said the concerted call for a resignation had been brewing for days, as senior party officials concluded the scandal was interfering with their attempts to gain political momentum in advance of the 2012 elections.
“We had decided we were not going to have one more week of Anthony Weinergate,” said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
This official added that House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, had spoken numerous times in the past several days with Weiner, hoping to persuade him to step down for the good of the party, telling him that because of the media focus on his predicament, their attacks on a Republican Medicare proposal were largely unnoticed.
Publicly, Pelosi, Wasserman Schultz and others had been notably reticent in the days since Weiner held a news conference on Monday to announce he had exchanged lewd photos, and more, with a handful of women.
On Thursday, an X-rated photo surfaced on a website, and in response, Weiner’s office issued a statement that did not deny it had been taken of him.
The White House declined comment on the matter, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, his state’s dominant Democrat, maintained a public silence after an initial statement issued on Monday.
Until disclosing he was seeking treatment, Weiner had been adamant that he would not quit Congress and was planning to return to work with the new week.
Earlier Saturday, he said his conduct involved “personal failings” and that he would try not to let them get in the way of
his “professional work.”
Weiner is married to Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Abedin is pregnant with the couple’s first child. She is traveling with Clinton in Africa until the middle of next week.
Before Saturday’s developments, at least nine Democratic House members and three senators said Weiner should resign.
Temporary leaves from Congress are unusual but not unheard of. In 2009, one member took a month off to be treated for alcohol addiction.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)