WASHINGTON –- Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) finally bowed to the immense political pressure he has faced since he tweeted a lewd photo of himself, announcing Thursday afternoon he is resigning from Congress.
"I am here today to again apologize for the personal mistakes I have made, and the embarrassment I have caused," said Weiner, 46, whose departure makes him the first congressman to step down over indiscretions on Twitter.
"I had hoped to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district elected me to do," said Weiner, speaking in the same Brooklyn senior center where he first announced his run for New York City Council 20 years ago.
"Unfortunately, the distraction that I have created made that impossible. So today I am announcing my resignation from Congress," Weiner said.
The room immediately erupted in cheers from apparent event-crashers, forcing Weiner to pause briefly before continuing. The circus-like spectacle was of a piece with the entire, absurd scandal, and recalled Weiner's initial public confession, delivered during a press conference ten days earlier, when he was heckled in a similar manner.
Weiner went on to apologize for the distraction he had caused, and thank his wife, Huma Abedin, for sticking by his side. Abedin, who is reportedly pregnant with the couple's first child, did not attend the event.
"Now I’ll be looking for other ways to contribute my talents," Weiner said.
The Brooklyn native’s world began to implode May 27, when he mistakenly tweeted a photo of his underwear-clad erection from his public Twitter account. Then he lied to cover it up, saying he was hacked.
Embarrassing photos and revelations continued to emerge, but Weiner refused to step down.
Yet political pressure mounted quickly. Most of the House leadership called for his resignation, and President Obama made a similar suggestion in an interview Tuesday. Congressional leaders had been slated to meet Thursday to hash out a strategy regarding Weiner's fate, but he finally relented Wednesday, calling leaders at the annual White House picnic to inform them he was quitting.
A person who is close to Weiner said it became apparent to the congressman that saving his job was the least of his problems.
"Everything he does [now] is to save his marriage," the person said.
"At least the nightmare is over," another friend told The Huffington Post.
On Wednesday, Abedin returned from a weeklong trip to Africa with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The same day, former porn actress Ginger Lee, who had exchanged emails and messages with Weiner, held a bizarre press conference in which she claimed he had urged her to lie about their communication.
The congressman had already announced he would be taking a two-week leave from the House to enter a treatment program, but the combination of family pressure and personal embarrassment apparently became too big a hurdle to overcome.
Observers noted the decision had to have been extremely hard for Weiner, who had defiantly resisted pressure to resign for several weeks, and that the call to Congressional leaders came the day Abedin got home.
“Wife comes home and he picks ‘us’ over ‘me’ –- but I'd take away his belt and his shoelaces, just in case,” said Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio.
House Democrats from New York and neighboring states offered varying opinions regarding whether Weiner should have resigned over the scandal, but all seemed to agree that putting an end to the distraction his behavior had caused would be a good thing.
Rep. Nita Lowey was the first to issue a statement, saying, "There is life after Congress for Anthony Weiner and I hope he devotes himself to repairing the damage he caused to his personal life."
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) had a markedly different reaction.
"His life and breath was here, outside of his family," said Pascrell, declining to discuss whether or not he has spoken to Weiner this week.
Turning to a reporter, Pascrell continued, "Just picture yourself if they took that pencil and pad away from you and said, ‘Because of this thing, you didn’t break any laws, you can’t write anymore. You have to find something else to do.’ You know, it’s an empty feeling."
"A lot of folks that knew him, we have empty feelings. But we get up and do the job that we’re paid for," he said.
Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) also wouldn’t comment on his conversations with Weiner and said he would have more to say after Weiner’s press conference. But Israel said his position on the matter has been clear all long.
"I’ve had repeated conversations with Congressman Weiner in which I expressed my strong feelings that he should resign for the good of himself, his family, Members of Congress and the country," he said.
Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) commended party leaders for the way they have dealt with the situation and concurred that Weiner is doing the right thing by stepping down.
"I think our leadership handled this very well, and if Mr. Weiner is resigning I think he ultimately handled it well as well," he said.
A Democratic leadership aide summed up the ordeal as "a political witch hunt" but suggested that Weiner's resignation won't be a huge blow for the party in the long run.
Losing Weiner is "not that big of a deal, but he was good," said the aide. "Not going to affect control of the House."
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