By Joe Anuta and Howard Koplowitz
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) ended three weeks of speculation over his political future Thursday and announced his resignation at a packed Brooklyn news conference.
“I hoped to be able to continue the work my constituents elected me to do,” Weiner said calmly. “Unfortunately, the distraction that I have created has made that impossible. So today, I am announcing my resignation from Congress.”
His announcement drew cheers from hecklers who infiltrated the crowd, but groans from some of the seniors who happened to be at Council Center for Seniors in Sheepshead Bay.
Weiner started the conference by quickly summing up his political career, which began in the same room at the senior center.
“About 20 years ago I stood in this very same room in the council center and asked my neighbors for their help, to take a chance on me and elect(ed) me to the city council,” he said. Weiner was elected to City Council in 1992 at the age of 27.
Weiner thanked those same people who trusted him enough to have him be their voice in the federal government.
“There is no higher honor in a democracy than having your neighbors send you to represent them in the U.S. Congress,” he said.
Weiner went on to apologize to his friends, family and wife. He did not hint at what his future plans would entail.
“I will be looking for other ways … to make sure we live up to our ideals,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) issued a statement following Weiner’s announcement, saying “he will be sorely missed by me and his constituents.”
The seven-term congressman’s career, which was expected to involve another mayoral run in 2013, went into a tailspin at the beginning of the month when it was discovered that he had tweeted a picture of his underwear-clad crotch to a Seattle college student.
The photo started what became known as Weinergate. Soon afterward the congressman claimed that his Twitter account was hacked.
“This was a prank, and a silly one, I want to get back to work,” he said shortly after a conservative blogger drew attention to the photo.
But the problem did not go away, and Weiner was the subject of intense media attention for days. On June 6 he held an emotional news conference admitting to sending the picture and lying to the public, the media, members of Congress and even his wife, Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But his admission did not stem the steady flow of leaked illicit conversations and pictures that flooded the Internet.
Several of the six women with whom Weiner admitted to engaging in “inappropriate” conversations over the last several years came forward with photos and claims that Weiner coached them to lie to the press.
Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart even leaked a more revealing photo of the congressman that Weiner had sent over the Web.
But even the often X-rated conversations that Weiner had with women over the Internet via social networking sites did not faze some of Weiner’s constituents.
Several of the seniors at the center where Weiner announced his resignation did not want to see him go.
“I didn’t want him to resign, but I think he had to,” said Howard Harris. “I think he’d be very ineffective if he stayed. They would have downgraded him and put him on the dishwasher committee.”
Several constituents wandered past Weiner’s Forest Hills office Thursday morning. One man recalled how Weiner had helped him get Social Security, one issue on which the congressman was especially outspoken.
Meeks said “this is a sad day, but Anthony has made the right decision for himself, his family and the Democratic Party.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.