Rep. Weiner to take leave of absence to seek treatment
Facing the most intense calls yet for his resignation, Rep. Anthony Weiner said Saturday that he would seek professional help in the wake of a still-raging scandal over his online sexual liaisons with at least six women.
After House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats declared that the New York Democrat should quit, Weiner’s office instead said that he would take a leave of absence to seek treatment.
Weiner “departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” a spokeswoman for the congressman said. “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.”
Weiner’s decision to pursue help comes amid reports that police in Delaware were investigating his online contact with a 17-year-old girl. Weiner’s office said Friday that there had been no inappropriate communication between the two.
Along with Pelosi, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, called on Weiner to quit — a sign that the party is prepared to cut ties with the congressman, who just weeks ago was viewed as a rising star and liberal champion.
Weiner “has the love of his family, the confidence of his constituents, and the recognition that he needs help,” Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said in a statement, urging him “to seek that help without the pressures of being a member of Congress.”
Wasserman Schultz called Weiner’s behavior “indefensible” and said that Weiner’s “continued service in Congress is untenable.”
Said Israel: “Anthony’s inappropriate behavior has become an insurmountable distraction to the House and our work for the American people.”
A senior Democratic aide said the push was coordinated — partially in response to Weiner’s announcement that he would seek treatment. Democrats also sought to have a consistent message concerning the scandal as the House returns to work next week under heavy media scrutiny.
According to a Democratic aide, no approval is required for a leave. The request is simply submitted as a formality. “You ask for, you get,” the aide said. The office of Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), however, said it was still looking into the matter.
Hours before the latest calls for his resignation, Weiner reiterated that he had no plans to quit and that his future should be decided by his constituents. A poll last week indicated that 56% of them wanted him to remain in office, compared with 33% who did not.
“Nothing has changed. This is ultimately a decision for my constituents,” he said, speaking to a cluster of reporters who trailed him as he walked through his neighborhood running errands. Weiner also said the contact with the 17-year-old girl in Delaware was not inappropriate. “I think that record is pretty clear — nothing explicit, nothing indecent, absolutely nothing inappropriate.”
Asked how his wife, Huma Abedin, was holding up, Weiner said she was “doing well.”
As he entered a bank, one woman rushed up, shook his hand, and insisted he had the support of New Yorkers. “I support you. This is your private life,” she said.
“I appreciate it,” Weiner replied.
Times staff writer Tina Susman in New York and Lisa Mascaro in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.