Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) political career took a serious hit Wednesday as one of the Democrats’ top campaign lieutenants urged him to resign in the wake of his online sex scandal.
Rep. Allyson Schwartz (Pa.), the head of recruiting for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said Weiner’s “offensive behavior” makes him unfit to remain in office.
Schwartz was not the only Democrat making the argument. The office of Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) said Wednesday that “it would be appropriate” for Weiner to quit, and a day earlier, Tim KaineTim KaineSenate Democrats dig in as shutdown approaches Clinton reappears on Capitol Hill for Reid send-off Kaine: Flynn spreads conspiracy theories a child wouldn't believe MORE, the former head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), also urged Weiner to step down.
“Lying publicly about something like this is unforgivable, and he should resign,” said Kaine, who is vying to replace outgoing Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) next year.
The calls intensify the pressure on Weiner as he struggles to maintain support from his party following Monday’s emotional confession that he’d sent racy pictures of himself to women around the country. An explicit picture allegedly of Weiner’s groin surfaced online Wednesday and spread across the Internet.
In another twist to the saga, The New York Times reported Wednesday that Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is expecting the couple’s first child.
The brash New Yorker has refused to step down amid the frenzy, saying his behavior outside Capitol Hill is a personal matter that doesn’t interfere with his duty to constituents.
Still, the calls from Schwartz and Kaine are indication that there’s a small but growing number of Democrats who view Weiner’s actions as a stain on the party that could have political ramifications far beyond the ninth district of New York.
The issue is an enormous distraction for Democratic leaders, who are hoping to focus the summer’s debate on issues like soaring gas prices, the lingering jobs crisis and the Republican plan to change Medicare.
Instead, the Weiner scandal has dominated the headlines of the last two weeks, forcing Democratic leaders to distance themselves from one of the party’s most effective messengers. And the story doesn’t appear to be fading.
On Sunday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who replaced Kaine atop the DNC in April, will face off on NBC’s “Meet the Press” against Reince Priebus, who heads the Republican National Committee. Priebus has already called on Weiner to resign, and the issue will almost certainly come up during the Sunday appearance, which otherwise would have centered on the 2012 campaign.
The DNC did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to comment as well.
The House’s return next week from recess is also sure to keep the story alive, as the Washington press corps gets its first crack at lawmakers since Weiner’s tearful mea culpa.
Also at issue is the call from Democratic leaders to have the House Ethics Committee investigate whether Weiner broke any chamber rules. That move was politically savvy, distancing the leaders from a radioactive figure, but it could also prolong the controversy. Indeed, ethics experts predict such an investigation would likely drag out until 2012.
Perhaps for that reason, even some Senate Democrats are calling for Weiner’s resignation. Sen. Mark PryorMark PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE (D-Ark.) suggested as much on Wednesday.
“It would be fine with me if he did [resign],“ Pryor said, according to Arkansas’s KUAR radio station.
Pryor said the ultimate decision is up to Weiner, his constituents and his family, but “at this point it would probably be a good thing if he would go ahead and resign.”
Most Democrats, however, are approaching the thorny subject more delicately — at least publicly. Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSenate Dems hold out on spending deal, risking shutdown Dems see ’18 upside in ObamaCare repeal Confirm Gary Richard Brown for the Eastern District of New York MORE (D-N.Y.) — with whom Weiner launched his Capitol Hill career as a staffer — has declined to comment on the topic, and that silence continued Wednesday.
A number of other Senate Democrats deflected questions, saying it’s a personal decision for Weiner.
“That’s not a decision that I can make for him,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenDems push for panel to probe Russian interference in election Hoyer pushes White House for briefing on Russian election interference This Week in Cybersecurity: Dems press for information on Russian hacks MORE (D-N.H.).
After more than a week denying that he’d tweeted a suggestive picture of himself to a 21-year-old Seattle college student last month, Weiner came clean on Monday.
“To be clear, the picture was of me and I sent it,” he said.
He also confessed to similar relationships with “about six” women, both before and after his marriage last year to Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“It was a destructive thing that I did that I accept responsibility for,” Weiner said Monday during his tearful mea culpa, “but if you’re looking for some kind of deep explanation for it, I simply don’t have one.”
This story was originally posted at 3:48 p.m. and updated at 8:02 p.m.