Rep. Weiner confesses 'terrible mistakes.' Did he save his career?

After a week of dodging questions, Rep. Weiner says he sent a lewd photo of himself and lied about it. Nancy Pelosi calls for a federal investigation. Will voters forgive him?

Brendan McDermid/Reuters
US Congressman Anthony Weiner speaks to the media in New York, Monday. Representative Anthony Weiner admitted to sending a lewd photo of himself to a 21-year-old female college student over his Twitter account after previously denying he had done so.

Saying he had made “terrible mistakes” and had lied about it, Rep. Anthony Weiner finally came clean.

After a week of dodging questions over whether he had sent a lewd photo of himself to a coed in Seattle, the grim-faced congressman admitted that and more at a press conference Monday in New York City.

He admitted he sent photos and had on-line chats – even intimate phone calls – with at least six women over the last three years. He termed his own behavior “destructive,” especially since he continued the practice of communicating with women and sending them risky – even nude – photos, even after he was married.

Representative Weiner, saying he was taking full responsibility for his actions, announced: “I have not been honest with myself, my family and supporters, and the media.”

Whether his at times emotional confession was sufficient to rescue his political future, however, was not clear.

The New York Democrat, who was elected to Congress in 1999, said he would not resign his seat representing Brooklyn and Queens. Weiner said he notified Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic House leader, on Monday afternoon.

Representative Pelosi quickly called for a federal investigation to determine if Weiner had violated any House ethics rules or used national resources. Weiner said he would cooperate fully.

Some of Weiner’s constituents indicated that they could overlook his personal transgressions. “I like his politics,” says Noel Anderson, a resident of the Rego Park neighborhood in Queens. “I was surprised to hear he would do something so foolish, but I still think he’s one of the good guys.”

Another Rego Park voter, Desmond Porbeni, admits disappointment with Weiner but says he would still vote for him in another election. And, Diana Patrick, a resident of Forest Hills, says that before Weiner’s confession she was going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Now, she says, if he can still do his job, “and put this behind him, then I don’t think he should resign.”

However, not all Queens voters were so forgiving.

Rona Greene, a resident of Forest Hills, says the fact that Weiner lied “is unforgivable.” If he would lie about this, she asks, “why wouldn’t he lie in the future.”

However, Ms. Greene stops short of calling for him to resign since she says there would be no one to take over.

Some veteran political observers said they do not think the revelations would necessarily destroy Weiner’s political future. He is up for reelection next year.

“He could get some element of political restoration if he is reelected and see where that takes him,” says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute of Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Mr. Miringoff notes that former President Bill Clinton survived the political fall-out from the Monica Lewinsky affair. “Right now it is highly damaging, since it speaks to Weiner’s judgment.”

Questions about Weiner’s actions, however, might kill his chances to run for mayor of New York. Weiner, who ran for mayor in 2005 (he lost in the primary) has said he wants to run New York City.

“The run for mayor in 2013 is just impossible,” says Doug Muzzio, a political observer and professor at Baruch College in New York.

If Weiner stays in Congress, it’s not clear how effective he will be. In the past, he was “an aggressive, articulate spokesman for the Democratic left,” says Professor Muzzio. However, he adds, many members of Congress may have a difficult time working with him right now. “Clearly his influence over the short run becomes nil,” he says. “If you are a Democrat, you run away from Anthony Weiner.”

At his press conference, Weiner indicated he wants to work hard to regain the trust of the voters. However his first priority, he indicated, was to patch things up with his wife, Huma Abedin, who works for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

After he revealed to her what he had done, he said she was “very unhappy” but not interested in splitting up.

Monitor intern Patrick Wall contributed to this story.

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