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Weiner steps down, ending three-week scandal

Online antics nip a political future in N.Y.

US Representative Anthony D. Weiner announced his resignation in a chaotic news conference nearly disrupted by hecklers. US Representative Anthony D. Weiner announced his resignation in a chaotic news conference nearly disrupted by hecklers. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
By Raymond Hernandez
New York Times / June 17, 2011

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NEW YORK — Representative Anthony D. Weiner, a once-promising politician whose Brooklyn roots and scrappy style made him a leading candidate to be the next mayor of New York, resigned his congressional seat yesterday, ending a three-week scandal over his lewd online behavior that startled his constituents and alienated many of his colleagues.

Weiner made the decision after long and emotional discussions with his political advisers and his wife, Huma Abedin, whom friends described as devastated by the behavior of her husband of 11 months and worried about the couple’s financial future.

In a chaotic four-minute news conference at a senior center in his district, Weiner, 46, strained to be heard as a small group of hecklers hollered vulgar questions at him and called him a “pervert’’ while puzzled elderly residents looked on.

“I am here today to again apologize for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment I have caused,’’ Weiner said.

A seven-term Democrat, Weiner had hoped his declaration Sunday that he would seek mental-health treatment and take a temporary leave from Congress would ease the pressure from Democratic leaders for him to step down. But their demands only grew louder as revelations about his conduct continued.

“I am announcing my resignation from Congress, so my colleagues can get back to work, my neighbors can choose a new representative, and most important, so that my wife and I can continue to heal from the damage I have caused,’’ Weiner said at the news conference.

Abedin was with Weiner at his Queens apartment as he prepared to make his statement, but did not appear at his side at the event.

The announcement brought swift relief to his Democratic colleagues, who had become increasingly uneasy as details emerged about Weiner’s online contacts with women — including his sending of explicit photos of himself to them over Facebook and Twitter. Democratic leaders had prepared to hold a meeting yesterday to determine whether they should strip Weiner of his committee assignments, which would severely impair his effectiveness.

Weiner reached his decision late Wednesday and seemed at peace with it, after days of appearing frazzled and torn, said several people who spoke to him. He began telling his most trusted advisers Wednesday night, informing them that it no longer seemed fair to his constituents and his colleagues for him to remain in office.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo must now call a special election to fill the vacancy created by Weiner’s departure. But the Ninth District, which covers Queens neighborhoods like Forest Hills and Howard Beach as well as Brooklyn sections like Midwood and Mill Basin, is a likely target for elimination as state lawmakers redraw district lines for the 2012 elections.

The scandal erupted late last month after a photograph of Weiner wearing tight-fitting underpants was sent to a college student in Washington State. Weiner initially denied having anything to do with it, saying his Twitter account had been hacked. But during an emotional news conference June 6, he admitted that he had lied, and that he had in fact sent the image and had inappropriate online exchanges with at least six other women.

The decision to step down was ultimately Weiner’s, but Abedin supported it, convinced that the embarrassing disclosures would not stop until he left office, according to a friend who has spoken to her.

It was not clear what will happen to Weiner’s announced plans to enter a treatment center; last night, a spokeswoman, Risa Heller, had no comment.

But the ethics committee investigation opened by the House into his conduct is expected to end as a result of his resignation, because the committee has jurisdiction only over the actions of members of Congress. And Weiner will retain control of more than $4 million in his campaign account.

It has been a precipitous fall for Weiner, a media-savvy politician with a knack for identifying hot-button issues, who had been considered a leading candidate for mayor in 2013.

Weiner was first elected to Congress in 1998, capturing the seat that had been vacated by his political mentor, Charles E. Schumer, who won a seat in the US Senate that year. Prior to entering Congress, Weiner was the youngest person ever elected to the City Council, where he served for eight years.

Despite his successes, Weiner could be abrasive, and some colleagues wrote him as a publicity seeker unwilling to put in the hard work needed to pass serious legislation. Despite his decision, Weiner still had some supporters yesterday in his district.

“He did nothing to hurt the public interest,’’ said Arie Ciuraru, 55, as he stood outside a pizza restaurant in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, where he works. “To face his wife, he paid already. I feel sorry for him.’’

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