New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, a rising Jewish political star and a staunch supporter of Israel, went today to seek professional treatment for the behavior he admitted to this week — exchanging sexual messages and photos with women he met online — and he’ll ask for a short leave from Congress for this purpose.
“Congressman Weiner departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” spokeswoman, Risa Heller told The New York Times. “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.”
Weiner’s troubles began on May 28, when conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart publicized a crotch shot that was briefly posted on the Congressman’s Twitter page. The image depicted the lower torso of an aroused male wearing boxer briefs.
Weiner, who is one of the most active Twitter users in Congress, maintained early on that his account had been compromised. A spokesman for the Forest Hills Democrat said, “Anthony’s accounts were obviously hacked.” Weiner repeated this claim in an interview on CNN and in subsequent Twitter posts.
On June 1, however, Weiner strayed from this story line when he told NBC’s Luke Russert that he couldn’t “say with certitude” whether the photo was of him, though he reiterated that his account had been hacked. Weiner’s waffling prompted Republican Rep. Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader and a fellow Jewish Congressman, to push for clarification. “I know there’s been a lot of explaining going on without a lot of clarity,” Cantor said.
In the following days, Weiner began to shy away from publicity, declining to attend the July 5th Salute to Israel parade on New York’s Fifth Avenue — marking the first time in years he had failed to appear. Even so, the Congressman has long been known for his vocal and, some say, unquestioning support of Israel. In 2006, Weiner introduced legislation in Congress to bar U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority and prohibit the Palestinian delegation from the United Nations, saying the delegates “should start packing their little Palestinian terrorist bags.” In the May/June issue of Moment magazine, Weiner said that “support for Israel was always a very big focus in my household growing up,” noting that he wore a homemade “I am a Zionist pin” to Sunday school as a child.
With mounting pressure from the media and Congressional Republicans nipping at Weiner’s heels, the firebrand Democrat — known for his take-no-prisoners style of public speaking — finally explained his actions June 6 in what was likely the most timid speech of the 46-year-old’s political career. In a tearful, 27-minute press conference in New York, Weiner admitted that he had meant to send the photo in question in a private message to a 21-year-old college student in Seattle. When he realized he posted it in a public message on Twitter, he said, he panicked and took it down. “…I have made terrible mistakes that have hurt the people I care about the most,” he said. He added that he did not intend to resign.
Weiner said he had exchanged explicit photos and messages over email, Twitter, Facebook, and the phone, with six women in recent years. He said he had not met any of the women.
Weiner is married to Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Weiner said that he and Abedin will remain married; on June 8, The New York Times reported that Abedin is in the early stages of pregnancy.