PORTLAND, Ore. — An Oregon congressman facing calls for his resignation from some of the state's largest newspapers said the mental health condition from which he suffers doesn't prevent him from doing his job.
U.S. Rep. David Wu told KGW-TV in an interview aired Saturday that he won't specify his mental health issue.
"There are personal things, even for a congressman," the Democrat told the television station. "I think it is appropriate to have some sphere of privacy about the specific diagnosis because I'm not the president of the United States with my finger on the nuclear trigger."
"Even for a congressman, there are some things which I think appropriately may remain private, and I think Oregonians can respect that," he added.
Wu was responding to questions about his fitness to continue in office after bizarre behavior concerned his team at the end of the 2010 campaign and led to the resignations of seven staff members after the campaign.
He blamed the stress of the campaign and the responsibility of caring for his two children as reasons for his behavior, which included sending pictures of himself wearing a tiger costume to staff members, a decision he now calls "unprofessional and inappropriate."
He said Saturday that he does not have a substance abuse problem, and that he should not have publicly disclosed his decision to stop drinking alcohol last summer because it gave a false impression that he suffered from alcoholism.
"If you do stop drinking, don't brag about it, because people think that you have a problem," Wu said. "And if you ever go back to drinking, people think you really have a problem. Moderation is very good."
Wu also repeated his vow to remain in office, and said he had plans to run again in 2012.
He said that during the campaign, he suffered a "severe episode" of an unspecified painful condition while at the home of a campaign contributor. He has said the contributor gave him two painkiller tablets.
"He offered me an alternative painkiller, I'm not sure exactly what that was, and I took two tablets," Wu said. "That was a very, very foolish thing to do. That's what pain and some bad judgment will do. I shouldn't have done it, and I recommend no one ever do that."
Wu said he did not know what was in the pills, adding that "if anyone says they know what it is, then they know more than I do." He has not identified the contributor who gave him the pills.
The Eugene Register Guard, Oregon's second-largest newspaper by circulation, published an editorial Wednesday calling for Wu's resignation "for lack of candor, not because of treatment."
"Wu should have been forthcoming about his medical treatment when it began," said the paper, which publishes outside Wu's district.
Another paper, the Daily Astorian from Clatsop County in Wu's district, planned to publish an editorial Thursday also suggesting that Wu should step down, saying the congressman has served the region well but "is becoming an embarrassment."
Wu's district is a Democratic stronghold that includes the west side of Portland and the city's technology-heavy eastern suburbs, including the global headquarters for Nike and a major factory for chipmaker Intel. It stretches northwest to the coast and south into Oregon's wine country.
He was a political newcomer when he was elected to Congress in 1998 as the first Chinese-American to serve in the U.S. House. He has maintained a centrist voting record but been a leading voice on human rights abuses in China. He angered the high-tech firms in his district when he voted against normalizing trade relations with China.
Wu said he did not have a responsibility to inform the voters of his mental health issues before Election Day.
"It was a very, very challenging campaign," Wu said. "Every family, every campaign, has things that they put out in front of the house and things that stay indoors."
Information from: KGW-TV, http://www.kgw.com/