Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) resigned from the House on Thursday afternoon, bowing to mounting pressure from Democratic leaders and weeks of public ridicule.
Weiner announced his decision to resign at a press conference in Brooklyn, saying, “I am here today to again apologize. ... I make this apology to my neighbors and constituents.”
Weiner also said that while “I had hoped to continue the work ... unfortunately the distraction I have created has made that impossible.”
Weiner’s brief press conference — which was repeatedly interrupted by hecklers — was markedly different from one he held 10 days ago in which he acknowledged he had lied to his family, the media and his colleagues over a string of online affairs he had with at least six women. Weiner’s first press conference was a rambling, awkward performance in which he took dozens of questions from the press.
By contrast, Weiner’s Thursday press conference was roughly five minutes long, and he did not take questions. Wiener’s wife, Huma Abedin, was not on stage with him.
For more than a week, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leaders have been trying to oust Weiner from his seat, arguing that he was hurting his party and family.
After Weiner’s announcement, Pelosi issued a statement, saying, “Congressman Weiner exercised poor judgment in his actions and poor judgment in his reaction to the revelations. Today, he made the right judgment in resigning. I pray for him and his family and wish them well.”
Earlier in the day, she had declined to comment on news that he was expected to resign.
The scandal, which revolved around his online relationships with at least six women, quickly became a national spectacle. Photographs of Weiner’s genitals were quickly leaked, as were photographs of a scantily clad Weiner flexing in the mirror of the House’s Members-only gym.
Weiner even drew the interest of infamous scandal attorney Gloria Allred. On Wednesday, Allred held a press conference with Ginger Lee, a former porn star and currently a featured dancer on the national strip club circuit. Lee, who corresponded with Weiner on Twitter, called on the Congressman to resign.
The three-week media barrage had become a major problem for Democrats. Pelosi and the Democratic Caucus had been on a political roll in the days leading up to the scandal, criticizing Republicans over their proposal to reform Medicare, and they saw it evaporate almost instantly.
Even those few people who had sought to defend Weiner, including Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), faulted his handling of the scandal. “I think this is a sad situation and it could have ended differently,” Pascrell told reporters.
Thursday’s resignation marked an abrupt end to a remarkable political career. A protégé of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Weiner made his debut on the political stage in 1992 with an improbable come-from-behind win in his first bid for the New York City Council. When Schumer moved from the House to the Senate in 1998, Weiner took his seat.
Weiner quickly made a name for himself as a fierce defender of liberal political causes and a harsh critic of the Bush administration and Congressional Democrats.
His often-theatrical House floor speeches made him a favorite of Democratic activists, and over the past several years he has built a strong personal following.
What is next for Weiner is unclear. At this point, it appears that his political career will be on hold for years. Weiner had planned on running for mayor in New York City, but that hope is all but certainly dashed at this point.
Although Weiner has been an effective messenger for liberals in his party, the scandal has significantly damaged his reputation nationwide. In a recent poll, Weiner had an abysmal 8-percent approval rating among registered voters. That could limit his appeal as a surrogate for Democrats and the White House on cable news talk shows.
Weiner could attempt to resurrect himself as a lobbyist in Washington like many other former Members. But even that could prove difficult for him. Weiner has not spent much effort on legislative activities, opting instead to hone his messaging skills. Additionally, Weiner does not count many of his colleagues as friends and has little in the way of personal relationships with Democrats or Republicans.
Immediately after Weiner’s resignation takes effect, the Clerk of the House will take over his Washington, D.C., and district offices, House Administration Committee spokeswoman Salley Wood said.
“The clerk handles all of the responsibilities,” she said, until a successor is chosen in a special election.
Although the district will not have a voting Representative, staffers will continue to handle constituent casework on the Clerk’s payroll. It’s not uncommon, however, for employees to leave in favor of other opportunities.
Jessica Brady and Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.