JEFFREY BROWN: And we turn to the bizarre tale of New York Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner.
He went before cameras and reporters today to admit sending sexually explicit photos and messages to several different women. Weiner had spent the better part of the last 10 days lying about his actions. In a New York City hotel ballroom late this afternoon, he took full responsibility.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER, D-N.Y.: Last Friday night, I tweeted a photograph of myself that I intended to send as a direct message as part of a joke to a woman in Seattle.
Once I realized I had posted it to Twitter, I panicked. I took it down, and said that I had been hacked. I then continued with that story, to stick to that story, which was a usually regrettable mistake.
To be clear, the picture was of me, and I sent it. I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife, Huma, and our family and my constituents, my friends, supporters, and staff.
In addition, over the past few years, I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, email, and occasionally on the phone with women I have met online. I have exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.
For the most part, these relations — these communications took place before my marriage, though some have, sadly, took place after. To be clear, I have never met any of these women or had physical relationships at any time.
I am deeply regret — regretting what I have done, and I am not resigning.
I have made it clear that I accept responsibility for this, and people who draw conclusions about me are free to do so. I have worked for the people of my district for 13 years and in politics for 20 years. And I hope that they see fit to see in the light that it is, which is a deeply regrettable mistake.
For my use of Twitter, I mean, it’s not — it’s something that I found useful. And Facebook is a way to get out the message. But I — I certainly wouldn’t obviously do the things that I have done that — that led me — that led me — that led me to this place.
JEFFREY BROWN: Late today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on the Ethics Committee to investigate whether Weiner broke any House rules.
And for more, we turn to NewsHour Political Editor David Chalian.
DAVID CHALIAN: Thank you, Jeff.
JEFFREY BROWN: I said a bizarre story. He was under pressure for a week here, denying. What led to today’s confession?
DAVID CHALIAN: There’s a conservative blogger named Andrew Breitbart. We have actually discussed him before in the context of campaign season last year.
And he posted early today some additional photos, not the photo that Anthony Weiner was just talking about there, which he fully admit to sending last week, but some additional photos with a different woman, explicit photos, bare-chested, that were emailed out to somebody.
What’s also happening, Jeff, today is that some of the women who were on the receiving end of these messages have started coming forward to start talking publicly about this. So, it was kind of crashing around him.
And his lie about not sending these messages or his account being hacked just wasn’t holding up anymore, so he felt compelled to come out.
JEFFREY BROWN: He clearly decided this was only going to get worse.
DAVID CHALIAN: He had to come clean.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, that was quite a scene, 45 minutes or so of — we only showed a little bit — but many questions. And he just stood there and answered them.
DAVID CHALIAN: And, in fact, before the — he started, Andrew Breitbart, that blogger, sort of hijacked his press conference, walked in, and started sort of just boasting about the fact that he was right about this all along.
Then Anthony Weiner did take to the podium. And you’re absolutely right. He stood there for almost a half-an-hour taking every question on this, to the point of, you could start feeling sorry for him a little bit, even though he’s clearly admitting wrong, in the sense that you could see the pain that he was experiencing. You saw him well up there.
And there’s no doubt that trying to answer every single question today was part of a strategy here, because he had failed to do that throughout the last week.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, tell us a little bit more about Anthony Weiner, a young legislator who had made a name for himself in the health care debate and had a fairly high profile for a young guy.
DAVID CHALIAN: No doubt. He’s a rising star in the Democratic Party. He was considered a top-tier contender for — to become the next mayor of New York in 2013. He was eying that race.
He had run for the mayor of New York, the Democratic nomination, in 2005. He fell short then. Before that, he was an aide to Chuck Schumer and then a New York City Council member.
And, yes, he — this is somebody who especially got a national name for himself during the health care fight of 2009 and 2010. He became a liberal favorite to go on TV and defend the health care law.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, it’s interesting to hear him talk about — at the very end about Twitter, social media.
We have talked about the use of these things in politics these days. On the one hand, there’s nothing new here, right? I mean, there’s a powerful man who has done some — something, but now we live in the age of Twitter and social media.
DAVID CHALIAN: Right.
You know, the — the base storyline here is not new.
JEFFREY BROWN: Right.
DAVID CHALIAN: We have seen it time and time again. And — but what is new is the technology. And it — and it’s not just — you know, George Allen learned the moment about video cameras when he had that macaca moment in 2006.
This isn’t just being caught. This is yourself not being able to sort of control hitting the send button and not thinking through all the actions. And in today’s instantaneous world, Anthony Weiner had quite a following on Twitter. I guess he thought that, somehow, he could use that for personal reasons…
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
DAVID CHALIAN: … and that it will never sort of intersect with his public life.
But what we saw here was yet again another politician had sort of personal failings that totally infected their public existence.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. You said, “I guess he thought.”
I mean, that’s what everyone said. What could he possibly be thinking? Because all these things go out, and they’re public.
DAVID CHALIAN: And, as you could see today, he wasn’t thinking, in terms of the consequences of that.
And he said — as he was trying to come clean, he said, as he was thinking through these issues in the last 10 days, the moment he told the first lie last week that he had been hacked, he said today he knew instantaneously he wasn’t going to be able to maintain that lie.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, briefly, tell us what happens next. We mentioned Nancy Pelosi.
DAVID CHALIAN: You did mention that the House minority leader ordered this House ethics investigation. This is just to look into whether or not he broke any House rules. Perhaps he used a government computer or a government BlackBerry in any of these texts and photos that were sent.
That’s what they will look into there, basically to just sort of put an exclamation point at the end of this, to make sure that there is nothing else to learn.
JEFFREY BROWN: And then he himself — he has a while before he goes before the voters.
DAVID CHALIAN: He does have a while.
JEFFREY BROWN: He’s not resigning.
DAVID CHALIAN: He comes from a very Democratic district in New York. He’s not resigning.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right.
DAVID CHALIAN: He’s not going anywhere just yet.
JEFFREY BROWN: David Chalian, thanks a lot.
DAVID CHALIAN: Sure.