(Updates with Ryan, Hoyer comment from seventh paragraph.)
June 12 (Bloomberg) -- New York Representative Anthony Weiner is seeking a leave of absence to seek treatment as top Democrats called for his resignation for sending suggestive photos of himself and messages to women he met online.
Weiner’s publicist, Risa Heller, said in an e-mailed statement that the married New York Democrat “will request a short leave of absence” from the House “so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well.”
Weiner “departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” Heller said yesterday.
The statement came as Democrats including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for his resignation, capping escalating pressure from fellow Democrats for him to step aside. Pelosi had called for an ethics investigation the day Weiner, 46, apologized for sending the photos and messages.
The New York Times reported earlier yesterday that Weiner acknowledged, through Heller, exchanging online messages with a 17-year-old Delaware girl. Weiner maintains that “his communications with this person were neither explicit nor indecent,” Heller said in an e-mail.
The House is scheduled to return to Washington tomorrow from a one-week recess and Weiner was certain to have faced continued questioning by Washington reporters, whom he previously told he had been the victim of computer hacker’s prank.
“He should resign,” Republican Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee, said today on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” program. “We’ve got important work to do and this is just a ridiculous distraction.”
Weiner admitted June 6 in New York that he engaged in “inappropriate conversations” with six women over the last three years, including by e-mail, on Facebook and Twitter, and on the telephone with one of the women. He was quoted by the New York Post on June 9 as saying he had no plans to give up his House seat.
Pelosi was joined in asking for Weiner’s resignation yesterday by the head of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, New York Representative Steve Israel, who heads the House Democratic campaign effort, and Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen, ranking member of the House Budget Committee.
Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn of South Carolina said the Democratic caucus “should address this issue when we meet next week.”
“Any judicial process is going to take time. I really don’t know that we have that time,” Maryland Representative Steny Hoyer, the Democratic Whip, said on “Face the Nation.” Hoyer said Weiner should reflect on how he would continue with his Congressional career. “I don’t see how he can proceed,” Hoyer said.
Pelosi issued her call for Weiner’s resignation after she learned the lawmaker would seek a leave of absence for treatment, according to a Pelosi aide who spoke on condition of anonymity. Pelosi’s statement said Weiner “has the love of his family, the confidence of his constituents, and the recognition that he needs help.” The California Democrat urged Weiner “to seek that help without the pressures of being a member of Congress.”
Van Hollen, former head of the Democratic campaign effort and an assistant to Pelosi when she was House speaker, also called for Weiner’s immediate resignation because his “repeated violation of the public trust is unacceptable.”
The married lawmaker’s “inappropriate behavior has become an insurmountable distraction to the House and our work,” Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement.
“The behavior he has exhibited is indefensible,” Wasserman Schultz, the national party chairman who is also a Florida congresswoman, said in her statement. “This sordid affair has become an unacceptable distraction.”
Weiner, who is married to Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “takes the views of his colleagues very seriously and has determined that he needs this time to get healthy and make the best decision possible for himself, his family and his constituents,” Heller said in the e-mailed statement.
--With assistance from Lisa Lerer and Josh Zumbrun in Washington. Editors: Ann Hughey, Robin Meszoly.
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