By Mike Lillis and Daniel Strauss - 06/17/11 12:12 AM EDT
Buckling under pressure from his Democratic colleagues following revelations that he’d sent lewd photos to women over the Internet, Rep. Anthony Weiner said Thursday he’ll step down amid his seventh term on Capitol Hill.
“Today I am announcing my resignation from Congress,” the New York Democrat said during a chaotic press conference at the senior center in Brooklyn where he announced the bid for New York City Council that launched his political career.
“Unfortunately the distraction that I have created has made that impossible,” he said.
“I am here today to again apologize for the personal mistakes I have made, and the embarrassment I have caused,” he added. “I make this apology to my neighbors and constituents, but I make them particularly to my wife Huma.”
Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, was not at the news conference, but he thanked her and his family for enduring the scandal.
A heckler in the crowd — reported to represent “The Howard Stern Show” — didn’t let Weiner go quietly, yelling, “Yeah! Bye-bye, pervert!”
Weiner’s announcement comes less than three weeks after the scandal first broke, and five days after a number of Democratic leaders joined Republicans in calling for his resignation. President Obama had also suggested Weiner should step down.
Democratic leaders had been silent on the scandal Thursday leading up to Weiner’s announcement. Following the brief resignation speech, however, those leaders began to find their voice.
“Congressman Weiner exercised poor judgment in his actions and poor judgment in his reaction to the revelations,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “Today, he made the right judgment in resigning.”
Rep. John Larson (Conn.), head of the Democratic Caucus, bemoaned Weiner’s “self destruction,” but also suggested resignation was the best option.
“He made the decision with the best interest in mind of not just himself, but his family, his constituents, and the nation,” Larson said.
Weiner, 46, has been embroiled in controversy since a photo of an underwear-clad man was sent from his Twitter account to a 21-year-old Seattle college student. Weiner initially denied sending the photo, saying his account was hacked.
Hounded by the press, he ultimately came clean at a tearful New York news conference in which he also admitted to having had “inappropriate” correspondence with “about six” women over the Internet over the past three years.
Since that public confession, more embarrassing photos of Weiner have surfaced on the Web.
Early this week, Weiner was granted a two-week leave of absence from Congress, which he reportedly planned to use in order to seek treatment.
His wife, a long-time adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had been traveling out of the country with Clinton until Wednesday. The couple was married last year, and is reportedly expecting their first child.
A recent poll taken in Weiner’s district after the scandal broke showed that New Yorkers did not want him to resign.
Several of Weiner’s New York colleagues struck a melancholy pose on Thursday, praising Weiner’s friendship and political savvy but also supporting his decision to step down.
“I wish him well, he’s a friend of mine,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). “We ought to let him resign and move on with his life.”
Engel said Weiner is canny enough to find success outside the Beltway, but doubted his chances to become the next mayor of New York — a position Weiner has eyed for years.
“He’ll land on his feet because he’s smart, and he’s resourceful and he’ll put this episode behind him,” Engel said. “[But] it would be hard for him to run for mayor.”
“No one’s indispensable,” Engel added. “This is a living body — that’s the way the founding fathers made it — and we move on.”
Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) said Weiner has been an effective lawmaker and “a great political voice” for Democrats. But he was quick to note that Weiner’s resignation also eliminates a significant distraction as party leaders move to tackle more pressing issues.
“There’s no doubt about it, this helps us get back to the message,” he said.
“He’s been very effective and it’s unfortunate this occurred,” Towns said. “But there’s no doubt in my mind, this is not the end of Mr. Weiner.”
Meanwhile, Weiner’s office in the Rayburn House Office Building has become something of a destination in the past few weeks, with news cameras trained constantly on the closed doors and giggly tourists posing for photos beside the plaque bearing his name.
On Thursday afternoon, in the hours after the resignation announcement, three cameras and half a dozen reporters awaited any movement through the still-closed doors. A group of young interns walked by. One knew exactly where he was.
“You know whose office this is, don’t you?” could be heard as they passed.
Molly K. Hooper contributed to this article.
-- This story was updated at 8:12 p.m.