A teary Rep. Anthony Weiner on Monday dismissed calls by conservative activists and Republicans that he resign over revelations that he has carried on what he admitted were inappropriate online relationships with a half-dozen women. But the New York Democrat's confession that he sent photos and sexually explicit messages to several women over the past three years prompted a swift rebuke from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who called for an ethics investigation.
The California Democrat said in a statement she wants "to determine whether any official resources were used or any other violation of House rules occurred." Her statement was soon followed by one from Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who last week defended Weiner by telling reporters the Congressman's Twitter feed used to send a lewd photo had been hacked. A Hoyer spokeswoman said the Ethics Committee should look into the matter, while Weiner promised in a statement to "fully cooperate" with any investigation.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel had similarly harsh words for his fellow New York lawmaker. Weiner has "engaged in a deep personal failure and inappropriate behavior that embarrassed himself, his family, and the House," Israel said in a statement.
During a hastily arranged press conference Monday afternoon, Weiner said he was not resigning and that he does not believe he has violated any laws or House rules.
"I deeply regret what I have done, and I am not resigning," he said. "I certainly used bad judgment here, that's for sure."
It is unclear whether Weiner will face any legal or ethical consequences. He said Monday he did not think he used government resources to send any pictures, but that may not matter. There are no House rules that prohibit him from sending personal — even lewd — pictures on a government computer.
The House Members' Handbook states that "limited use of government resources to access the Internet, to send or receive personal e-mail, or to make personal phone calls is permissible, so long as the use ... conforms with the Regulations of the Committee on House Administration and the Code of Official Conduct (House Rule XXIV)."
That House rule basically prohibits using official funds for campaign purposes or using personal or campaign funds to pay for office expenses, but it is silent on using official resources for personal purposes.
The danger for Weiner would be the general ethics clause that Members should "conduct themselves at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House." But ethics experts suggest that standard is usually applied only in connection with other ethics violations, not as a stand-alone offense.
It all started when a photo of a man in gray underwear surfaced on Weiner's Twitter feed late last month. Weiner, a prolific tweeter, raised eyebrows when he said he could not say "with certitude" whether the photo was of him but denied sending it. But on Monday, conservative activist Andrew Breitbart posted new photos that appeared to show Weiner, shirtless and sitting in what looks like an office.
Separately, radaronline.com alleged that an anonymous woman had provided the gossip site with transcripts of explicit chat sessions she had with Weiner, who is married.
On Monday, Weiner took responsibility for taking the pictures and said the underwear image was sent to his thousands of followers by accident.
"I tweeted a photograph I had intended to send as a direct message as a joke to a woman in Seattle," he said, adding that he had "several inappropriate conversations" with six women via text message, Twitter, email, Facebook and in some cases on the phone. Weiner acknowledged sending pictures to some of the women.
Although he said most of the incidents occurred before he was married, "some, sadly, took place after," his July 10, 2010, wedding to Huma Abedin.
He said he and Abedin, who works for the State Department, intend to stay together. He repeatedly apologized to Abedin and his constituents, and he insisted, "I have never met any of these women or had physical relationships at any time."
Weiner said he had spoken with Pelosi before his press conference, telling reporters that during their brief conversation the Democratic leader had urged him "to be truthful, she said to say what you know and was thankful I was doing that today."
In a statement released by his office, Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant said that her boss "has urged Mr. Weiner from the beginning that he needed to be truthful and put the facts on the table."
Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) has stood by Weiner throughout the scandal. Weiner won Schumer’s House seat in 1998 when he won election to the Senate.
“I am deeply pained and saddened by today’s news,” Schumer said Monday. “By fully explaining himself, apologizing to all he hurt and taking full responsibility for his wrongful actions, Anthony did the right thing. He remains a talented and committed public servant, and I pray he and his family can get through these difficult times.”
Weiner, 46, had worked his way through the often rough-and-tumble New York Democratic political machine in the 1990s as a city councilman before being elected to the House.
Once there, Weiner quickly made himself one of the chamber's most unapologetic liberal firebrands, using bombastic speeches on the House floor to launch a national political persona. He appeared poised to translate that success into a run for New York City mayor.
But the scandal could now throw his political future into doubt.
While leadership pushed the calls for an ethics probe, Democrats were not openly calling for Weiner to step aside Monday. But Republicans, similarly embarrassed when shirtless photos prompted ex-Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) to resign earlier this year, held nothing back.
The National Republican Congressional Committee issued a statement needling Democrats and asking them to "explain why Congressman Weiner's actions never aroused any suspicion, and why they rushed to his defense."
New York State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox called on Weiner to resign, declaring, "His actions are at best despicable and at worst illegal."
Weiner repeatedly said Monday he would not resign his 9th district seat, but he did not explicitly say he would seek re-election.
Asked about the electoral consequences of his actions, Weiner said the last thing he's thinking about is "next year's election or the election after that."
"I'm going to work very hard to win back [voters'] trust," he said. "Nothing about this should reflect in any way on my official duties or my oath of office."
While the political boundaries could change because of redistricting, the 9th district is currently Democratic-leaning. It includes parts of Queens and Brooklyn. Despite a couple of close calls last fall, Democrats largely dominate New York City's federal races, with the exception of GOP Rep. Peter King's 3rd district seat.
Given the scandal's daily treatment in New York media — particularly tabloids like the New York Post — it is unlikely to retreat from the public's mind.
"The Post is widely read in New York City and people are not going to forget this," former Democratic operative Curtis Ellis said before Weiner's press conference. "It's going to be very hard to take this guy seriously if he runs for mayor."
He continued: "This now puts Anthony Weiner officially in the category of, 'Oh, he's one of those guys.'"
Nick Langworthy, the Erie County Republican chairman and the former district director for Lee, said constant scandals do "desensitize people." He added: "The bar is set very low right now in what is expected of public officials."
Paul Singer contributed to this report.
This article updates the print version to include comments from Sen. Charles Schumer.