So far, House Democratic leaders haven’t publicly demanded Rep. Anthony Weiner resign after admitting he sent suggestive photos of himself in his underwear via Twitter and then lied about it to everyone within earshot.
But they’ve made it clear they’d appreciate it if he’d go away. And soon.
In statements within an hour of Weiner’s stunning admission on Monday, not a single Democrat volunteered support for the man long mentioned as a possible future mayor of New York. And notably, none chose to comment on his defiant vow: “I am not resigning.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the party leader, said she was “disappointed and saddened.” She and other Democrats called for an ethics committee investigation to determine whether Weiner had broken any House rules.
Other Democrats said they agreed.
Purely in political terms, violating House rules would be the least of the woes Weiner has inflicted on his party, currently trying to make the case that Republican policies fall harshly on female voters.
By his own admission, he behaved badly toward women, describing a series of sexually-infused exchanges via Twitter over the past three years.
“I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, email and occasionally on the phone with women I had met online,” he said at his news conference in New York.
“I’ve exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years,” he added, although he quickly added he had not met any of the women or “had physical relationships at any time.”
He apologized repeatedly and profusely to his wife, who was not in attendance.
Men behaving badly toward women hardly counts as news in the Capitol.
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., resigned a few weeks ago to avoid having to testify under oath before the Senate ethics committee about a tangled affair. Among other findings, the panel reported he had once asked his mistress to marry him in a proposal made while the two were attending a National Prayer Breakfast.
But on health care and many other issues, Democrats are busy trying to build a case that women should turn Republicans out of office at the next election. Fitting Weiner’s suggestive photos of himself, and his sexually-charged banter, into that theme is something they presumably would like to avoid.
The immediate precedent for Weiner’s behavior in the House concerns former Rep. Chris Lee, a Republican who resigned in February after shirtless photos he sent to a woman he had met on Craigslist were published online.
Lee was gone virtually before his transgression became known publicly, shown the door by the Republican leadership.
Republicans have been careful to avoid injecting themselves into Weiner’s predicament, preferring to let Democrats stew in it themselves. Eventually, the question of a double standard is all but certain to be suggested by GOP officials, if not by others.
Weiner’s response to a question along those lines showed how difficult an answer might be. “Well, I don’t want to get into anyone else’s situation, but I can tell you about mine. And it’s one that I â€” that I regret, that didn’t have to do with my government service per se, and had to do with a personal weakness.”
Nor are fellow Democrats in Congress likely to take it well that Weiner lied to them, as well as to his wife and the public.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., defended Weiner a week ago, based on the congressman’s assurances that he had not been involved in the photo sent via Twitter.
A few hours after Weiner’s news conference, Schumer said in a statement that Weiner “remains a talented and committed public servant, and I pray he and his family can get through these difficult times.”
Schumer did not say whether Weiner should remain in Congress. But his spokesman, Brian Fallon, said the senator thinks “that should be up to his constituents to decide.”
However much lying may be invoked as a betrayal of trust, it also raises questions about what other damaging information may not yet be known.
Weiner was asked about Andrew Breitbart, a conservative who had materialized before the news conference and implied he had an X-rated photo of the congressman.
“Can you say that is not true?” Weiner was asked.
“No, I cannot,” he said.
Calls for Representative Anthony Weiner’s resignation, including from some fellow Democrats, mounted on Wednesday, two days after he confirmed details of an online sex scandal.
Word also emerged that the wife he has publicly humiliated is pregnant.
Democrats in Congress, distancing themselves from the once rising liberal Democratic political star, are becoming increasingly concerned about the political fallout.
A House Democratic aide said late on Wednesday, “There are strong signals coming from members that represent a growing concern in the caucus about his actions and you see members speaking out.”
Allyson Schwartz, a member of the House of Representatives Democratic campaign committee, made it clear she had seen enough of the scandal that was tarnishing the party’s image.
“Having the respect of your constituents is fundamental for a member of Congress. In light of Anthony Weiner’s offensive behavior … he should resign,” Schwartz said.
Weiner, 46, who many had seen as the next mayor of New York, is resisting calls he step down for sending lewd photos of himself to women with whom he had held steamy online chats.
“I think his hope and instinct is that he can stick it out,” said a senior New York Democrat, asking not to be identified. “We’ll see.”
But there were deeper questions about Weiner’s political future after an explicit photo of the congressman reportedly surfaced on the Internet on Wednesday.
“As Representative Weiner said on Monday when he took responsibility for his actions, he has sent explicit photos,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.
“To reiterate, he has never met any of these women or had physical contact with them. As he said, he deeply regrets the pain he has caused. With the full support of his wife, he is working on righting these wrongs with his family and his colleagues,” the statement added.
Huma Abedin, 35, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who married the congressman a year ago, is in the early stages of pregnancy with the couple’s first child, The New York Times reported, citing three unidentified people with knowledge of the situation.
The Times said the couple had disclosed the pregnancy to close friends and family.
HAS VOWED TO REMAIN IN POST
After vehemently denying for more than a week that he sent a picture of his bulging boxer briefs to a woman in Seattle, claiming he was the victim of hacking, Weiner tearfully admitted to lying about the scandal on Monday.
He also vowed to remain in his post and preserve his marriage to Abedin. Former President Bill Clinton officiated at their wedding last July amid much fanfare that Washington’s newest power couple was made of a Muslim, Abedin, and a Jew, Weiner.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether Weiner violated any of the chamber’s rules, and former Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine, now running for the Senate from Virginia, said Weiner should step down.
House Republican Leader Eric Cantor on Tuesday became the first top lawmaker to say Weiner should quit.
Dan Ripp of Bradley Woods, a private firm that tracks Washington for investors, said he expected Weiner to quit within days.
“I think he’s history,” Ripp said. “Democrats aren’t giving him the time of day. He has no clout. His own party is looking at him like a bozo. He is dragging them down.”
Back in New York, his constituents were split.
Howard Witz, a real estate broker in Brooklyn, part of Weiner’s district in New York City, said he would support Weiner again should he remain in politics.
“It’s a shame because he’s a very effective politician,” Witz said. “Disappointed? Maybe. But does it make me quit on him? No it doesn’t. As long as he didn’t commit a crime.”
Another New Yorker, Joe Mele, was more blunt.
“Mayor? I don’t think he should be dogcatcher,” Mele said.