Rep. Anthony Weiner, the besmirched New York Democrat who admitted to a series of explicit online exchanges with six different women, announced his resignation June 16 at a senior center in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
“I’m here to apologize for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment that I have caused,” said Weiner, who represents portions of Queens and Brooklyn.
Weiner was a popular seven-term congressman who represented the fourth largest Jewish congressional district in the country; before the scandal, he had planned to run for New York City mayor in 2013.
Weiner made his announcement around 2:25 p.m. inside the Council Center for Senior Citizens, where he had announced his 1991 run for New York City Council. Looking well rested but somber, Weiner stood at one end of a small dance hall on the second floor of the building, flanked by two American flags. The congressman’s two-minute speech was interrupted several times by hecklers, one of whom called him a “pervert.”
Weiner’s political career began to crumble two weeks ago when a photograph of the congressman in his underwear appeared on conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart’s website after Weiner had accidentally posted it on his Twitter feed.
At first, Weiner maintained that his account had been hacked. But at a teary press June 6 press conference, Weiner said that he had meant to send the photo in a private message to a woman in Seattle; he also said he had engaged in similar online relationships with a handful of women over the past few years. Weiner originally declined to step down despite spite of calls from ranking Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
In the weeks since the story broke, several women have come forward with photos that Weiner had sent them, some depicting the congressman in a towel inside the congressional gym. Calls for Weiner’s resignation intensified. Most recently, President Obama said that if he were in Weiner’s position, he would leave office.
Weiner was reportedly waiting to speak with his wife, Huma Abedin, an aide to Hillary Clinton, before making his decision. Abedin, who is in the early stages of pregnancy, returned from a work-related trip overseas on June 15; she was not at the Sheepshead Bay press conference.
Weiner was, however, surrounded by several of his elderly constituents at the press conference; many of them had stepped into the room after spending the morning at the senior center. Around a half dozen women sat on either side of the congressman.
Muriel Butensky, 81, who is Jewish and lives in Brooklyn’s Mill Basin neighborhood, said that the senior center hosted a discussion last week about Weiner’s indiscretions. “The conclusion we came to was that power corrupts,” she said. “Who goes and exposes himself? He is being very indiscreet. In my mind, a sick person does that.”
Butensky said she was not aware that both of Weiner’s parents are Jewish. “It’s a shonde if he’s Jewish,” she said. “It is not right. We were raised to respect women.”
Even so, Butensky said that she regretted not getting to know him better as her congressman, and added, “I don’t want to hold a grudge.”
At the press conference, Weiner said he had hoped to continue serving his district. “Unfortunately, the distraction I created has made that impossible.”
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Naomi Zeveloff is the Middle East correspondent of the Forward, primarily covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories.