WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Republican Party said Tuesday that Rep. Anthony Weiner should resign after admitting to sexually charged online relationships with several women and lying about his misdeeds.
Reince Priebus said in a statement that either House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz believe that members of Congress are held to a different standard, or they believe the congressman’s actions demand his departure from the House.
The Democratic National Committee did not have an immediate comment.
The National Republican Congressional Committee also seized on the Weiner scandal as a 2012 campaign issue, issuing press releases calling on more than a dozen House Democrats to return campaign contributions from Weiner.
Republicans sought to turn House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s celebrated campaign pledge in 2006 to “drain the swamp” of corruption and ethical abuses in Washington against the Democrats.
“After dragging her feet while her colleagues abused their office, it is past time that Leader Pelosi take a small step to start draining the swamp her party waded in while she was Speaker,” said Paul Lindsay, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee in a statement.
GOP ethics woes helped Democrats take control of Congress in 2006.
Weiner vowed on Monday he would not resign his seat, and apologized repeatedly at a news conference for his actions.
Pelosi issued a statement afterwards calling for the House ethics committee to investigate.
Weiner faces a cool reception from even some of his closest allies in Congress as he clings to a once-promising political career.
Pelosi and other members of the Democratic leadership voiced their disappointment in Weiner and pointedly urged the House ethics committee to launch an investigation to determine if the outspoken New York Democrat broke House rules. Their calls came shortly after the married Weiner’s profuse public apology for “inappropriate” online exchanges with six women.
The second-ranking House Democrat, Maryland’s Steny Hoyer, called for Weiner to make full disclosure.
The cool but so-far not fatal reception from his House colleagues contrasted sharply with the fate that befell fellow New York Rep. Christopher Lee, who sent a shirtless photo of himself to a woman he met on Craigslist. Within a matter of hours of the photo being disclosed, the Republican met with House Speaker John Boehner and resigned.
House Republicans have stated there would be zero tolerance for misbehavior by members in their ranks. And even if Weiner did nothing illegal, House ethics rules state that members must comport themselves in a manner befitting their office, enough to trigger an investigation into Weiner’s online social life.
And House Democrats weren’t exactly circling around him in support.
One of Weiner’s New York colleagues, Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said it would rest with the voters of Weiner’s district, which covers parts of Brooklyn and Queens, to determine the seven-term congressman’s fate.
“Congressman Anthony Weiner engaged in a deep personal failure and inappropriate behavior that embarrassed himself, his family and the House,” Israel said. “Ultimately, Anthony and his constituents will make a judgment about his future.”
New York’s senior senator, Chuck Schumer, said in a statement that he was “deeply pained and saddened by today’s news. By fully explaining himself, apologizing to all he hurt and taking full responsibility for his wrongful actions, Anthony did the right thing. He remains a talented and committed public servant, and I pray he and his family can get through these difficult times.”
Weiner on Monday admitted sending a lewd photo of his underwear-clad crotch to a young woman over Twitter and then lying repeatedly to protect himself.
The extraordinary confession at a packed Manhattan news conference was a remarkable turn of events for the brash Weiner, who conceded to a “hugely regrettable” lapse in judgment.
Weiner insisted he had done nothing wrong and said he would fully cooperate with a House inquiry.
Weiner said he used his home computer and personal Blackberry, not government computers, in his exchanges with the women. But that may not protect him from House rules that say a member “shall conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.”
On numerous occasions, the House ethics committee has cited that general rule in finding that a lawmaker violated standards of conduct.
Weiner also acknowledged that he had engaged in inappropriate contact with six women over the course of three years through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and occasionally over the phone. He said he had never met or had a physical relationship with any of the women and was not even sure of their ages. He also said he had never had sex outside of his marriage.
Weiner said over and over that he had made “terrible mistakes” and done “a very dumb thing” for which he alone bore responsibility, and he apologized repeatedly to his wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“My wife is a remarkable woman. She’s not responsible for any of this,” he said. “I apologize to her very deeply.”
Abedin did not attend his news conference, but Weiner said they would not be separating over the scandal.
Among the women Weiner contacted, Meagan Broussard told ABC News that Weiner “friended” her on Facebook after she commented on one of his speeches posted online on April 20. They exchanged more than 100 messages, and Weiner constantly tried to steer the conversation toward sex.
“I don’t think he’s a bad guy. I think he’s got issues just like everybody else,” Broussard, 26, said in an interview aired Monday night.
During Weiner’s news conference, the lawmaker confirmed that Broussard was one of the women with whom he had exchanged messages.
The scandal began more than a week ago when a conservative website reported that a photo of a man’s crotch had been sent from Weiner’s Twitter account to a college student in Seattle.
For days, Weiner claimed that he hadn’t sent the photo and that he was the victim of a hacker. But he caused guffaws when he said that he couldn’t say with “certitude” that the underwear shot was not a picture of him.
The scandal escalated Monday when the website, BigGovernment.com, run by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, posted photos purportedly from a second woman who said she received shirtless shots of the congressman. The site said the pictures were in a cache of intimate online photographs, chats and email exchanges the woman claimed to have. The website did not identify the woman.
One photo showed Weiner on a couch with two cats nearby. The website said Weiner sent the photo using the anthonyweiner(at)aol.com account with the subject line “Me and the pussys.”
Appearing on NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday, Breitbart threatened to make public what he described as an X-rated picture involving Weiner if the congressman forces his hand.
Breitbart said he considers the image “an insurance policy” against attacks from Weiner, who admitted Monday that the so-called crotch shot photo was of him. The married Weiner also acknowledged he had engaged in inappropriate contact with six women over three years through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and occasionally over the phone.
Breitbart said Tuesday that if Weiner wants to open himself to further investigation, “there are a lot of women” who could come forward. Asked directly if he considered the purported unpublicized picture an insurance policy, Breitbart replied, “I don’t like to think of it that way.”
Also, the celebrity website RadarOnline.com said a woman claimed to have 200 sexually explicit messages from Weiner through a Facebook account that Weiner no longer uses. It was not clear whether the woman who claimed to have the new photo was the person who claimed to have received the text messages.