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Anthony Weiner contact with 17-year-old: Will it sink his career?

Rep. Anthony Weiner's efforts to hold onto his job hinge on what emerges in a continuing drip, drip of evidence from his online 'sexting' activities. Many of his constituents say he should resign.

By Staff writer / June 11, 2011

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., is followed by the media as he carries his laundry to a laundromat near his home Saturday. The 46-year-old congressman acknowledged Friday that he had online contact with a 17-year-old girl from Delaware but said there was nothing inappropriate.

David Karp/AP

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Anthony Weiner's bid to remain a US congressman may now depend on how the public and his peers deal with the ongoing flow of information about his online contacts.

The latest news is that Mr. Weiner, under scrutiny after admitting sexually charged communications with several women, has also exchanged messages via Twitter with a 17-year-old high school girl in Delaware.

But through a spokeswoman, the New York Democrat said the contacts with the young woman were "neither explicit nor indecent." And apparently the girl has a similar view.

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IN PICTURES: Ethically challenged congressmen

Delaware police said Friday they were investigating the reported communications, had interviewed the teen, and that "she has made no disclosure of criminal activity nor inappropriate contact by the Congressman."

The larger message, in this latest round of news, may be simply that Weiner's efforts to hold onto his job now hinge partly on what emerges in a continuing "drip, drip" of evidence from his online activities and from others involved in those communications.

The congressman, while apologizing for both his online behavior and for lying about it initially, has said he has broken no laws and intends to remain in office.

In a Marist poll conducted Wednesday in Weiner's New York district (Brooklyn and Queens), some 56 percent of registered voters say he should not resign, while 33 percent say he should step down. A day earlier, a different poll (SurveyUSA) found that 46 percent of New Yorkers would like Weiner to quit, 41 percent say he should stay, and 13 percent weren't sure.

The Marist poll showed voters divided over whether they think Weiner can be effective in his job now, or whether they will vote for him in the next election.

Another court of public opinion also matters: the views of Weiner's own colleagues in Congress.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday that the decision on whether he stays or goes should be up to him and the voters in his district.

An influential colleague who has been censured for ethics violations, Rep. Charles Rangel, came to Weiner's defense Friday. The New York Democrat implied that Weiner's misdeeds were not as bad as those of which some other prominent politicians. He "wasn't going with prostitutes. He wasn't going out with little boys," Mr. Rangel said.

But according to news reports, at least seven House Democrats, plus a number of Republicans, have called on Weiner to step down. According to one Democratic congressman, who talked to CNN on condition of anonymity, others in the party are working behind the scenes to coax him out the door.

This is a scandal of the social-media age, including the online release of explicit photos, allegedly of Weiner and sent by Weiner. The uproar also has served as a reminder that it's not easy to be sure that online communications are occurring between consenting adults.

The tension over that issue was palpable earlier this week, when the married congressman held a press conference in which he admitted to having sexually related communications with six other women (and said none of the relationships were physical). Asked about the ages of the women with whom he traded messages, Weiner responded that "they are all adults. At least to the best of my knowledge, they were all adults and they were engaging in these conversations consensually."

Pressed on the point, he conceded that "all I know is what they publish about themselves in social media. Someone could have been fibbing about it. And that's a risk."

IN PICTURES: Ethically challenged congressmen

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