Weiner draws no defense from Democrats

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, June 7 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Instead, they reflected the growing impact of social media and little-known websites on the political fortunes of the nation's most powerful elected officials, in this case, a man with ambitions of becoming mayor of New York City.

Despite fielding numerous questions on Monday, some of them intensely personal about his marriage, Weiner left gaps at his news conference.

He said he could not guarantee that none of the women with whom he exchanged salacious pictures or messages was underage.

Asked whether he had phone sex, he sidestepped. "I was never in the same room as them, I never — had any physical relationship whatever," he said.

Asked whether he could guarantee that there was no X-rated photo in existence of himself, he replied, "No, I cannot."

That issue was first broached by Breitbart, who showed up at Weiner's news conference on Monday before the congressman did.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Breitbart said he had not yet released a sexually explicit photo taken of the congressman unclothed.

He said he would consider releasing the picture if he concludes that Weiner's staff tries to disparage any of the women with whom the congressman flirted online.

"Under the circumstances that those women that he's had these consensual relationships, that their personal information would start to be leaked from his team, I would strongly consider releasing the photo if he wants to make this an attack on these innocent women," he said.

At his news conference, Weiner apologized to the women and to all he misled with his earlier denials, but most often to his wife, Huma Abedin, who was not present.

Abedin, deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is well-known in her own right in Democratic circles. Some party officials said that was a factor in the general unwillingness to call for Weiner's resignation.

She has had no comment on her husband's controversy.

Under House rules, party leaders cannot force a lawmaker to quit, although they can press for a resignation and sometimes do.

Republicans successfully urged Indiana Rep. Mark Souder take that course last year after he admitted to an extra-marital affair with a member of his staff. They did so again in February, with Rep. Chris Lee of New York, who quit quickly after shirtless photos he sent to a woman he had met on Craigslist were published online.

By contrast, Pelosi issued a call shortly after Weiner's news conference for the House ethics committee to investigate his case to make sure no House rules were broken.

The committee had no comment, and with the House not scheduled to meet for nearly a week, it was unclear when it might begin work on the case.

Associated Press writers Andrew Miga in Washington and Christopher Hawley in New York contributed to this report.

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