By Howard Koplowitz
Calls for U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-Forest Hills) resignation grew stronger this week, but the embattled congressman had still not caved in to pressure.
Weiner asked for and was granted a two-week leave of absence and announced he was entering rehab after his embarassing Twitter scandal came to light, although it was unclear what kind of help he was seeking or where the facility was.
The congressman’s pregnant wife, Huma Abedin was due back in the country Thursday after traveling overseas with her boss, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
President Barack Obama, who initially declined to comment on Weiner’s situation, suggested Monday that the congressman should step down.
“If it were me, I would resign,” Obama said.
Weiner’s predecessor in the House, U.S. Sen Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), said he was “heartbroken” over the congressman’s behavior.
“For those of us who are longtime friends of Anthony Weiner his wrongful behavior is distressing and saddening,” Schumer said. “It’s clear he needs professional help and I am glad he is seeking it.”
Many top Democrats have urged Weiner to resign, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who ordered an ethics investigation to determine whether Weiner used any government resources in the texting scandal.
The House Ethics Committee began a preliminary investigation Monday into Weiner.
When Weiner held a news conference last week to admit to sending a photo of his boxer-clad crotch to a college co-ed on Twitter, he claimed he used his private phone and personal computer to communicate with the woman and six others.
Momentum for Weiner’s resignation gained steam after an X-rated photo of the congressman was made public along with shots that appeared to show the Forest Hills Democrat taking pictures of himself from the House gym.
Among the candidates whose names have been floated to succeed Weiner if he resigns are former City Council members Eric Gioia and Melinda Katz, state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens).
Some of Weiner’s constituents, including members of the Juniper Park Civic Association, protested outside his Kew Gardens Road office over the weekend demanding his resignation.
“It’s a question of morality,” said Howard Beach resident Ed Kampermann. “He has tarnished his office. He cannot bring home the bacon for the district.”
The protest drew a separate crowd, who said they were standing by their congressman.
“It’s easier to crucify and abandon someone when they are down than to stand up for them,” said 47-year-old Jim Sideris of Flushing, who was a classmate of Weiner’s at Brooklyn Technical High School.
Weiner has a sizable campaign war chest and led all Democratic challengers in fund-raising in the 2013 mayoral race, although it appears unlikely that he will run for that post following the scandal.
Evan Bell, a Manhattan donor to Weiner’s campaigns, said he would support the congressman “financially and emotionally” should he decide to tough it out and seek re-election.
Borough organizations that have been beneficiaries of Weiner’s member item allocations have stayed silent on his situation, including Queens College, where Weiner steered $540,000 in federal funds for various programs over the last two years.
Joe Anuta and Ivan Pereira contributed reporting.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.