The man in the foreground has become all too familiar in the past week, but the background in a series of newly-released photos may be the thing that forces Rep. Anthony Weiner to step down.
The sexually suggestive images that the congressman took of himself in the congressional gym indicate that he used government resources to carry out his sexting lifestyle, a probable violation of the rules of the House of Representatives. Its minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, and other Democratic leaders now openly call for Weiner to resign.
"We have made clear that he needs to resign," Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press." "He needs to focus on getting his own personal issues in order, focus on his family and do the right thing for his constituents," she said.
The new photos, released by TMZ this past weekend, show Weiner in various states of undress, and in at least one of the pictures, he is naked except for where his hand covers his private parts. He took this series of explicit pictures of himself in front of a mirror in the congressional gym locker room, and sent them to at least one woman with whom he had a sexting relationship.
Weiner's spokeswoman, Risa Heller, said the congressman who represents Queens and parts of Brooklyn checked into a treatment facility and would be requesting a "short leave" of absence from the House of Representatives so he could get evaluated and map out a course of treatment for unhealthy sexual urges and sexual addiction.
She did not respond to questions about reports that Weiner was waiting for his wife, Huma Abedin, an aide to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to return on Wednesday from a diplomatic trip to Africa and the Mideast before deciding whether or not to resign.
At least one source close to the congressman tells the New York Daily News that Weiner is finally considering turning in his resignation -- an about-face from the position he's had since coming clean about his sexting lifestyle a week ago.
Meanwhile, some of Weiner's own constituents are saying loud and clear that they don't want him. A protest against Weiner on Sunday brought out dozens of people to his office, many holding signs calling for his resignation. Also present was a handful of demonstrators supporting the congressman from Queens.
The latest poll of Weiner's district, conducted June 8th by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, shows that a majority of potential voters, 56%, want him to serve out his term, and in PIX11's own unscientific poll, tweets to @jamesfordtv show that by a margin of 3 to 1, PIX11 viewers want Weiner to stay put and want the news media to leave him alone.
@GirlzonFilm told PIX11 News, "The Peeping Tom Press has fueled this scandal. This is [Weiner and his wife's] private matter. Stay out!" @REP96st adds, "Taking pics in a government gym shouldn't count as resources being used. So what?" Manuel Quelle joins the chorus, "If people want a saint, elect the pope."
By contrast, Ed Amato tells PIX11, "He shouldn't step down for his Twitter antics, but must step down for trying to cover it up." Frank Lewandowski also says, "He has a position of public trust. He needed to set the example. Like thinks he is entitled! Time to go."
By the next election, in November of next year, it may all be moot anyway. National population shifts, as recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau, are forcing New York to eliminate two congressional districts. Weiner's district had been considered for elimination before the sexting scandal broke, but now it is ripe for being folded into other districts with fewer Republican voters.
Weiner's determination to remain in office, bolstered by support from some his New York City constituents, has angered Democrats. They say his inappropriate online exchanges with at least six women have hurt the party as it seeks to regain control of the House of Representatives from Republicans in 2012 elections.
The scandal has shifted public attention to Weiner's behavior and away from issues like the unpopular Republican plan to cut theMedicare healthcare program for the elderly.
"It pushes those stories off the front page. It's a bad story about the Democrats and the Democrats can't defend it," said Paul Sracic, head of the political science department at Youngstown State University in Ohio.
Republicans are also ready for the Weiner story to end.
"This is getting beyond ridiculous," said Representative Paul Ryan, head of the House Budget Committee, on CBS's "Face the Nation."
"We have got to get this behind us because it's a distraction," said Ryan, architect of the unpopular Medicare proposal. "He should resign ... Because we have got important work to do. And this is just a ridiculous distraction."
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