Admitting he lied to the public after being caught sending a lewd photo of himself in underwear to a college student, Rep. Anthony D. Weiner on Monday acknowledged making "terrible mistakes," but said he wouldn't step down from Congress.
Democratic colleagues said the lawmaker from New York should face an ethics investigation to determine whether his behavior broke House rules. Mr. Weiner said they and his constituents are free to draw their own conclusions, but he thinks he can still serve in office.
"I am deeply regretting what I have done, and I am not resigning," the married, 46-year-old New Yorker said at a news conference in Manhattan, repeatedly calling his actions "destructive" and "inappropriate," but that it didn't rise to the level of abuse of his office.
"I have made it clear that I accept responsibility for this. And people who draw conclusions about me are free to do so. I've worked for the people of my district for 13 years and in politics for 20 years, and I hope that they see fit to see this in the light that it is, which is a deeply regrettable mistake," he said.
After days of denial, Mr. Weiner seems to have been forced by newly revealed photos apparently of the congressman's naked torso, and accounts of suspected extramarital online sexual chats.
He stood in a hotel meeting room before cameras - at times tearing up - and admitted sending the Washington state college student the frontal photo of him in his underwear. He said he had done similar "dumb" online exchanges with six women, including some during his 11-month marriage to Huma Abedin, a top aide in the State Department.
Mr. Weiner claimed his Twitter account had been hacked after the underwear photo surfaced. He refused to call for a police investigation and said he couldn't answer whether the photo itself was him.
On Monday, Mr. Weiner said those were lies.
His colleagues, many of whom had been standoffish during the revelations, said he should face investigation.
"I am calling for an ethics committee investigation to determine whether any official resources were used or any other violation of House rules occurred," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, who heads the party's caucus.
Mr. Weiner said he did not use government computers or phones for the conduct in question, and that he did not think he had violated his oath of office.
However, House rules also require that a member "shall conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House." House rules also say members' offices are public property, so even if he was using his personal BlackBerry, as he claimed, he could have violated rules if he sent messages while at the Capitol complex.
On Monday evening, Mr. Weiner said he would cooperate fully with a House ethics investigation.
It marks the latest sexually tinged scandal for members of Congress. Earlier this year, Rep. Chris Lee, New York Republican, resigned after the married congressman admitted sending a shirtless photo of himself to a woman he met on Craigslist.
In previous years, Sen. Larry Craig, Idaho Republican, was arrested for lewd behavior in a Minneapolis airport men's room, and Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican, was accused of sending inappropriate messages to male congressional pages.
Mr. Foley resigned, but Mr. Craig did not, serving out his term and retiring in early 2009.
Outside of Washington, governors have faced sexually tinged scandals. As New York's governor, Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, frequented high-dollar prostitutes. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, recently acknowledged he fathered a child with a housekeeping staffer.
Former Sen. John Edwards was indicted last week on campaign-finance violations stemming from payments made to his mistress, with whom he fathered a child, during his 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Mr. Weiner's difficulties expanded Monday as various news outlets and websites posted more photos and accounts of the congressman's online exploits.
BigGovernment.com, run by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, posted an account by Meagan Broussard, a 26-year-old single mother from Texas who said her exchange with the congressman began April 20 when she commented on his Facebook page that a photo of him was "hot."
She said that began an online back-and-forth that involved "trying to get me to talk about myself sexually."
"He would ask me weird things, like 'Did you miss me?' I didn't understand that - how could I miss someone I hadn't met and didn't know? What is there to miss about me if you don't even know me?" she wrote.
"Talking to him was sometimes a turn-off because he was so open and just so full of himself, as if he were looking, searching for something. I don't know if he loved telling me his personal business. I didn't want him to say more, didn't want to hear stories about sex with famous people. But I guess he needed to express himself," she wrote.
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