Weiner seeks leave of absence from House

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, June 11 2011 9:26 p.m. MDT

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., is questioned by the media near his home in the Queens borough of New York, Saturday, June 11, 2011. The 46-year-old congressman acknowledged Friday that he had online contact with a 17-year-old girl from Delaware but said there was nothing inappropriate.

David Karp, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

WASHINGTON — Under fierce pressure from fellow Democrats to resign in a sexting scandal, Rep. Anthony Weiner announced Saturday he was entering professional treatment at an undisclosed location and requested a leave of absence from Congress.

An aide for the embattled New York lawmaker made the disclosure in a statement shortly after several Democratic party leaders demanded he quit for exchanging messages and photos ranging from sexually suggestive to explicit with several women online.

"This sordid affair has become an unacceptable distraction for Representative Weiner, his family, his constituents and the House," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party chairwoman, said in a written statement calling for the 46-year-old married lawmaker to step down.

The House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, said Weiner "has the love of his family, the confidence of his constituents and the recognition that he needs help. I urge Congressman Weiner to seek that help without the pressures of being a member of Congress."

Aides said later that Pelosi had been aware of Weiner's plan to enter treatment when she issued her statement, and her call for a resignation had not changed because of it.

Weiner's spokeswoman, Risa Heller, said in the statement that the congressman departed during the morning "to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person. In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well."

The statement did not say where he would receive treatment, or what type was involved. Others familiar with his plans said he had left New York by air.

Also joining in calls for Weiner to quit was Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a member of the party's leadership.

In an interview, Israel said he had told Weiner in a phone call during the day "that I was going to call on him to resign and he absorbed that. Obviously he had much more personal and pressing issues that he was addressing.

"He didn't give me any indication of whether he was going to resign or not," Israel said.

Pelosi also spoke with Weiner during the day to let him know that she, too, would be joining the calls for resignation.

The developments occurred one day after Weiner acknowledged he had exchanged online messages with a 17-year-old girl in Delaware. He said nothing improper had passed between the two of them.

Nor was there even an allegation that Weiner had a physical relationship with any of the women with whom he maintained virtual relationships. That made his case a departure from the norm, a sex scandal without sex, a phenomenon of the age of Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Democrats said the concerted call for a resignation had been brewing for days, as senior party officials concluded the scandal was interfering with their attempts to gain political momentum in advance of the 2012 elections.

"We had decided we were not going to have one more week of Anthony Weinergate," said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

This official added that Pelosi and Israel had spoken numerous times in the past several days with Weiner, hoping to persuade him to step down for the good of the party, telling him that because of the media focus on his predicament, their attacks on a Republican Medicare proposal were largely unnoticed.

Publicly, Pelosi, Wasserman Schultz and others had been notably reticent in the days since Weiner held a news conference on Monday to announce he had exchanged lewd photos, and more, with a handful of women.

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