WASHINGTON — A defeated Anthony Weiner, the man whose name has become synonymous with puerile sex scandal, resigned his seat in U.S. Congress on Thursday under pressure from top Democrats.
“Today I am announcing my resignation … so my colleagues can get back to work, my neighbours can choose a new representative, and most importantly, that my wife and I can continue to heal from the damage that I’ve caused,” the pained New York congressman, absent his characteristic swagger, told a packed news conference at a senior citizens centre in Brooklyn.
Weiner’s resignation comes more than 10 days after he tearfully admitted sending a series of lewd photographs and texts to several women over the past several years, even after his wedding last summer to Huma Abedin, a close aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The congressman kept his composure on Thursday, but his remarks were disrupted at one point by a heckler from the Howard Stern radio show, who shrieked “bye-bye pervert” as the congressman pointedly ignored him. Benjy Bronk, a writer for the Stern show, was shushed by reporters, one of them telling Weiner:
“He’s not with us.”
He kept on nonetheless.
“Will you maintain your hot physique?” Bronk shouted as the 46-year-old Weiner left the podium at the end of his brief remarks.
Bronk was eventually escorted from the event by police, but the adolescent nature of the heckling seemed a sadly fitting addition to so-called Weinergate, the sex scandal that has hogged headlines and titillated tabloids for more than two weeks.
Late-night talk show hosts have also rejoiced in the scandal, marvelling at the 46-year-old Weiner’s buff body while making endless puns on his surname. The scandal first broke in late May when the congressman publicly tweeted a photo of his bulging boxer briefs when he meant to send it privately to a 21-year-old college student.
Before his public confession last week, Weiner denied he’d sent the photo and claimed his Twitter account had been hacked.
But more photos emerged, including an X-rated shot and a recent batch that showed him flexing half-naked in the House of Representatives gym.
Leading Democrats, meantime, were fuming about the continuing free for all, pushing Weiner to resign.
The scandal diverted attention from the momentum Democrats were gaining in their fight against controversial proposals by Republicans to reduce the federal budget.
Weiner, in fact, has been one of the most vocal Democrats on Capitol Hill for years, railing against Republicans on various issues, but most passionately on health-care reform. Friends have said his resignation, for that reason, was painful.
Beloved by liberals thanks to his voracious appetite for brashly challenging conservatives, in particular Fox News personalities during memorable on-air clashes, Weiner wasn’t as popular among some in his own party.
He was critical of President Barack Obama at times, advocating for a single-payer health-care system and expressing dismay when the administration wouldn’t go that far.
His 14-year career as a congressman now in ruins, it’s also unlikely Weiner has any hope of making another run for New York mayor any time soon. He was considered a frontrunner among Democrats to replace Michael Bloomberg in 2013.
The woman most insistent that he leave Congress congratulated him for doing so on Thursday.
“Congressman Weiner exercised poor judgment in his actions and poor judgment in his reaction to the revelations,” Nancy Pelosi, House of Representatives minority leader, said in a statement.
“Today, he made the right judgment in resigning.”
Sen. Charles Schumer, Weiner’s onetime boss and mentor, praised his friend.
“On this sad day, we should not forget that Anthony Weiner was an effective and passionate advocate for the people he represented in Brooklyn and Queens,” Schumer said.
“He has served his community, city and country well for over two decades.”
The congressman reiterated his apology to Abedin on Thursday, a woman “who has stood with me in this entire difficult period and to whom I owe so very much.” Abedin, in the early stages of pregnancy, didn’t attend the news conference but was reportedly at the couple’s home in Queens.
Friends have said Weiner’s top priority now is to save his marriage. He’s been getting professional help in New York since the weekend.