Report of new photo, wife’s pregnancy add to pressure on Weiner
Democrats bolted away from Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday as fallout from his sexting scandal spread.
One by one, some of Weiner’s Democratic colleagues expressed deep disapproval and called for his resignation, suggesting a growing tide of pressure that could prove difficult to withstand. And the White House, asked for comment, declined.
Meantime, new developments surfaced: a lewd photograph alleged to have been sent by the congressman to a follower on Twitter and a news report that his wife, 35-year-old Huma Abedin, is expecting their first child.
Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is traveling with Clinton overseas and could not be reached for comment. Her pregnancy was reported by the New York Times.
Weiner’s wife has not spoken publicly since he tearfully acknowledged Monday that he’d been sending explicit pictures and flirtatious messages to several women on Twitter — despite a week of animated, adamant denials. Weiner said Monday that he would not resign.
On Wednesday, he was in his Queens district working the phones in an attempt to repair damage with anxious and angry colleagues.
But Weiner, 46, appeared to be swimming upstream. The liberal congressman known for his bombastic attacks and savvy use of social media was losing allies, particularly those with reason to fear political blowback.
“Members are getting very anxious because the story’s getting worse. It’s not going away,” said a Democratic aide close to party leadership who would describe reactions only on condition of anonymity.
Added a senior Democratic aide, also not authorized to speak publicly, who insisted on anonymity: “The snowball is starting to roll downhill and it’s getting bigger and bigger. With the picture today and news on Huma, I just don’t see how these calls won’t continue and multiply.”
Among the first Democratic officials to speak out was Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz of Pennsylvania, who holds a leadership post with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She suggested that Weiner did not have “the respect of [his] constituents.”
“In light of Anthony Weiner’s offensive behavior online, he should resign,” she said.
Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a onetime Democratic National Committee chairman and now a candidate for Senate in Virginia, also weighed in. “Lying publicly about something like this is unforgivable and he should resign,” Kaine said.
Rep. Joe Donnelly, a moderate Democrat running for Senate in Indiana, said he would donate to charity the $5,000 he received from Weiner’s campaign committee.
“Enough is enough. It’s time for Congressman Weiner to resign,” Donnelly said. “His actions have disgraced the Congress. Everyone should be focused on jobs and the economy, and his refusal to do the right thing is a distraction.”
Most top Republicans saw little reason to pile on publicly, preferring to let Democrats grapple with the embarrassing issue. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has not commented on the scandal.
But one GOP aide drew a distinction between how the two parties handled misbehavior in their ranks. When Republican Rep. Christopher Lee, also of New York, was exposed in a similar incident in February, Lee resigned in a matter of hours.
“Speaker Boehner has held House Republicans to a high standard on ethical issues,” said a House leadership aide who was not authorized to speak publicly. “This is a test for [Democratic leaders] and they’re failing.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has called for an ethics investigation. Rep. Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has said Weiner and his constituents should decide his future.
But Wednesday’s revelations will make keeping his job even harder for Weiner. The X-rated photo of a man’s genitals spread rapidly online. It was posted after conservative Web entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart — who first reported the Weiner story — showed it to the hosts of Sirius XM radio’s popular “The Opie & Anthony Show.”
The image, combined with Abedin’s pregnancy, is not likely to win Weiner sympathy.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, an influential Democratic leader, said a day earlier that Weiner should keep his seat and serve as a voice for the poor. But on Wednesday, he said he’d changed his mind.
“Yesterday I said he hasn’t done anything to hurt anybody but himself and perhaps his terrific wife. I think this picture puts it over the limit,” Rendell said. “I think he’s got no choice now but to resign.”
Times staff writers Geraldine Baum in New York and Michael A. Memoli in Washington contributed to this report.
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