NEW YORK — A tearful Rep. Anthony Weiner on Monday admitted sending a lewd photo of his underwear-clad crotch to a young woman over Twitter and then lying repeatedly to protect himself. In a flash of defiance, Weiner refused to resign even as Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called for a House ethics investigation into whether he broke the rules.
The extraordinary confession at a packed Manhattan news conference was a remarkable turn of events for the brash Weiner, who conceded to a "hugely regrettable" lapse in judgment. House Democratic leaders tersely expressed disappointment and embarrassment, reflecting an erosion of support for the 46-year-old New York congressman and casting doubts on whether Weiner could hold onto his House seat let alone turn a once-promising political career into a 2013 bid for mayor.
Weiner insisted he had done nothing wrong and said he would fully cooperate with a House inquiry.
"People who draw conclusions about me are free to do so," Weiner said. "I've worked for the people of my district for 13 years and in politics for 20 years and I hope they see fit to see this in the light that it is."
But in a new twist, the married Weiner also acknowledged that he had engaged in inappropriate contact with six women over the course of three years through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and occasionally over the phone. He said he had never met or had a physical relationship with any of the women and was not even sure of their ages. He also said he had never had sex outside of his marriage.
The news conference, unusually blunt even by New York standards, went on nearly half an hour and capped a week of double-entendre, tabloid-headlines and late-night jokesters' snide comments. With eyes welling and voice breaking, Weiner fielded questions from dozens of shouting reporters as the cameras clicked.
Weiner said over and over that he had made "terrible mistakes" and done "a very dumb thing" for which he alone bore responsibility, and he apologized repeatedly to his wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"My wife is a remarkable woman. She's not responsible for any of this," he said. "I apologize to her very deeply."
Abedin did not attend his news conference, but Weiner said they would not be separating over the scandal.
Among the women Weiner contacted, Meagan Broussard, told ABC News that Weiner "friended" her on Facebook after she commented on one of his speeches posted online on April 20. They exchanged more than 100 messages, and Weiner constantly tried to steer the conversation toward sex.
"I don't think he's a bad guy. I think he's got issues just like everybody else," Broussard, 26, said in an interview aired Monday night.
During Weiner's news conference, the lawmaker confirmed that Broussard was one of the women with which he had exchanged messages.
The scandal began more than a week ago when a conservative website reported that a photo of a man's crotch had been sent from Weiner's Twitter account to a college student in Seattle.
For days, Weiner claimed that he hadn't sent the photo and that he was the victim of a hacker. But he caused guffaws when he said that he couldn't say with "certitude" that the underwear shot was not a picture of him.
The scandal escalated Monday when the website, BigGovernment.com, run by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, posted photos purportedly from a second woman who said she received shirtless shots of the congressman. The site said the pictures were in a cache of intimate online photographs, chats and email exchanges the woman claimed to have. The website did not identify the woman.
One photo showed Weiner on a couch with two cats nearby. The website said Weiner sent the photo using the anthonyweiner(at)aol.com account with the subject line "Me and the pussys."
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