In a major blow to Rep. Anthony Weiner’s attempt to hold onto his job in the wake of a “sexting” scandal, three top Democratic leaders Saturday told the embattled New York congressman that he has to go.
"It is with great disappointment that I call on Representative Anthony Weiner to resign," Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement Saturday. "The behavior he has exhibited is indefensible, and Representative Weiner's continued service in Congress is untenable.”
"This sordid affair has become an unacceptable distraction for Representative Weiner, his family, his constituents and the House,” Wasserman Schultz said. “And for the good of all, he should step aside and address those things that should be most important – his and his family's well-being."
IN PICTURES: Ethically challenged congressmen
Earlier in the week, House Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi had described herself as “deeply disappointed and saddened about this situation.” But she stopped short of telling Weiner to resign, calling instead for an Ethics Committee investigation “to determine whether any official resources were used or any other violation of House rules occurred” in the several instances in which Weiner had sent sexually-explicit emails and photos of himself to a half dozen women.
The last straw for Pelosi came with the revelation Friday that Weiner also had exchanged emails with a 17 year-old high school girl in Delaware – although both Weiner and the young woman denied that there was anything explicit or indecent in the exchange.
In a statement Saturday Pelosi said: “Congressman Weiner 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.”
“Anthony’s inappropriate behavior has become an insurmountable distraction to the House and our work for the American people. With a heavy heart, I call on Anthony to resign," said Israel's statement. “I pray for his family and hope that Anthony will take time to get the help he needs without the distractions and added pressures of Washington, DC.”
Pelosi and Israel issued their statements after asking Weiner privately to call it quits, according to Politico.com.
“They both called him this morning and said ‘you should resign,’ and he didn’t and they issued their statements,” a source familiar with the discussions told the online political site. “The White House was engaged.”
That the Obama administration had become involved put additional pressure on Weiner.
The New York congressman’s reputation for brashness, verbal pugnaciousness, and – critics said – a self-centeredness beyond what is considered normal for elected lawmakers won him few friends on Capitol Hill, Democrat or Republican. The only one who had come to his defense was Rep. Charles Rangel, himself recently censured for ethics violations.
Two polls earlier this week showed that large minorities of Weiner’s constituents in the Brooklyn and Queens district he served thought he should step down.
Some, including House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia, had called for Weiner’s resignation days ago – ignoring the fact that they had not done so when such Republicans as Sens. David Vitter and John Ensign were caught up in sex scandals alleged to have involved illegal activity.
Regarding the latest revelation involving the high school girl, the New Castle County, Del., Police Department issued a statement on Saturday saying: "Detectives have conducted an interview with the teen and she has made no disclosure of criminal activity nor inappropriate contact by the Congressman."
But that news apparently did not end the perception among Democrats that the accumulated revelations – plus Weiner’s initially having lied about them, as well as the possibility that there could be more – was more than they could take.
For the moment, however, Weiner is hanging on.
In a statement to Politico.com Saturday Weiner said he will not resign from Congress and will instead head to rehabilitation to seek "professional treatment.”
"Congressman Weiner departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” Weiner’s office said in the statement.
“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 said. “Congressman Weiner takes the views of his colleagues very seriously and has determined that he needs this time to get healthy and make the best decision possible for himself, his family and his constituents."
IN PICTURES: Ethically challenged congressmen