Rep. Anthony Weiner (D., N.Y.) carries his laundry to a laundromat near his home in the Queens borough of New York on Saturday. 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.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner said Saturday he’s taking a leave of absence and seeking professional treatment as Democratic leaders called for him to leave office, saying the “sordid affair” has become a distraction.
It was unknown how much time off the New York Democrat would take.
But the temporary break was not enough to satisfy top Democrats, who were hoping to force him to step down.
“The behavior he has exhibited is indefensible and Rep. Weiner’s continued service in Congress is untenable,” said Democratic National Committee chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.
“The sordid affair has become an unacceptable distraction for Rep. Weiner, his family, his constituents, and the House,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said.
Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi of California and Steve Israel of New York joined her in calling for Mr. Weiner’s immediate resignation.
“Anthony’s inappropriate behavior has become an insurmountable distraction to the House and our work for the American people,” Mr. Israel said.
An aide said Ms. Pelosi was aware of Mr. Weiner’s intent to take a leave of absence when she called on him to “seek that help without the pressures of being a member of Congress.”
Democratic leaders called for Mr. Weiner’s resignation as police in Delaware began investigating Mr. Weiner’s electronic communication with a 17-year-old high school student.
Mr. Weiner said he did nothing wrong.
Police in New Castle County, Delaware, said the teen “made no disclosure of criminal activity, no inappropriate contact by the congressman.”
OBJECTMr. Weiner’s office indicated the congressman left Saturday “to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person.”
It said Mr. Weiner would request a “short leave of absence” from the House “so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well.”
“Congressman Weiner takes the views of his colleagues very seriously,” the statement said. “And he has determined that he needs this time to get healthy and make the best decision possible for himself, his family, and his constituents.”
The statement did not say where he would receive treatment or what type was involved. It did not specify how long a leave of absence the congressman would seek.
According to one Democratic aide, leaves are granted automatically once a lawmaker requests one and no vote or other type of acquiescence by the House is required.
It is not known whether any other lawmakers are currently on leave.
Until disclosing he was seeking treatment, Mr. Weiner had given no indication he was considering anything other than returning to the Capitol Monday when the House returns from a week-long break.
He ran some personal errands near his home in Queens Saturday morning and said he was looking forward to getting back to work quickly.
“I’ve made some mistakes. I’ve acknowledged it. I’m trying to make it up to my wife and my family,” he said. “I’m working hard to get back to normal.”
Asked how his wife was taking the scandal, Mr. Weiner said, “She’s doing well. She’s a remarkable woman.”
He is married to Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ms. Abedin, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child, is traveling with Mrs. Clinton in Africa until the middle of next week.
A majority of voters in Mr. Weiner’s Queens-Brooklyn congressional district in New York think he should stay in office.
A poll released Thursday by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and cable television’s NY1 found that 56 percent of registered voters in Mr. Weiner’s district don’t think he should quit, and 33 percent think he should.
About 12 percent of the voters said they weren’t sure.