* New York Democrat acknowledges causing a distraction
* Third U.S. lawmaker forced out this year in sex scandals
* Pelosi says Weiner's resignation is the right thing
(Adds Obama quote, paragraph 7)
By Mark Egan
NEW YORK, June 16 U.S. Representative Anthony
Weiner, ensnared in a humiliating flap for sending lewd photos
of himself to women online, resigned on Thursday, ending a
weeks-long scandal that made his fellow Democrats cringe.
"I had hoped to be able to continue the work that the
citizens of my district had elected me to do -- to fight for
the middle class and those struggling to make it," Weiner told
reporters in Brooklyn at the seniors' center where he first
announced plans to run for New York City Council 20 years ago.
"Unfortunately, the distraction that I have created has
made that impossible, so today I am announcing my resignation
from Congress," he said, looking composed in contrast to 10
days ago when he tearfully admitted to online dalliances.
Once seen as a rising star among Democrats and widely
expected to run for New York mayor, Weiner made his
announcement alone, his wife absent, at a raucous event where
he was heckled repeatedly.
Weiner, 46, represented parts of New York City in the
House of Representatives since his first election in 1998. He
had established himself as a leading liberal voice in the House
and easily won a seventh two-year term last November.
Under pressure from President Barack Obama and both major
political parties, Weiner previously insisted he would seek
treatment and take a short leave of absence from the House.
"Obviously, it's been a tough incident for him," Obama said
in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" to air on
Friday. "But I'm confident that they'll refocus and he'll
refocus, and they'll end up being able to bounce back," he
added in an excerpt released on Thursday night.
On Tuesday, Obama told NBC News: "He's embarrassed his wife
and his family. ... If it was me, I would resign."
Democrats feared that Weiner had become a political
liability to their efforts to win back the House from
Republicans in next year's elections. Weiner also had been seen
as a strong contender for New York mayor in 2013.
Elizabeth Viggiano, a 62-year-old senior at the center,
said: "It's heartbreaking. He got caught with his pants down."
Other locals such as Robert Kolowaski, 56, had mixed
feelings, calling his actions victimless. "He was very feisty,"
he said. "He stood up for the people."
Weiner is the third member of Congress to step down this
year in sex scandals. Republican John Ensign of Nevada quit the
Senate after an extramarital affair with a former campaign
aide. Republican Chris Lee of New York quit the House after
sending a shirtless photo of himself to a woman he met online.
FALL FROM GRACE
Weiner's resignation marked a remarkable fall from grace
for a politician who in 1992 became New York's youngest-ever
City Council member, at age 27.
Weiner was known for his forceful debating and acerbic wit.
He had powerful friends, too. Weiner married Huma Abedin, 35,
an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a ceremony
last July officiated by former President Bill Clinton.
His mentor was New York's powerful U.S. senator, Chuck
Schumer, for whom he had worked after graduating from college.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said: "Congressman
Weiner exercised poor judgment in his actions and poor judgment
in his reaction to the revelations. Today, he made the right
judgment in resigning."
A senior Democratic congressional aide said the final straw
for Pelosi was on June 8, when additional photos of Weiner
The aide added that during a call last Friday, Weiner urged
Pelosi to reconsider her call for him to resign, citing polls
showing his constituents wanted him to stay. "Consider those
rose petals to let you go graciously," Pelosi told him,
according to the aide.
After talking with his wife, who returned from an overseas
work trip with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, Weiner called
Democratic leaders on Wednesday to tell them he would resign,
congressional aides said.
At his news conference, he apologized to his wife and
thanked her for standing by him.
Democrats are expected to retain Weiner's House seat, which
will be filled in a special election.
Ironically, for someone who had successfully used social
media such as Twitter and Facebook to boost his political
brand, Weiner's fall was prompted when he accidentally posted
publicly via Twitter a close-up of his bulging underpants.
Weiner denied for more than a week that he sent a photo of
himself in boxer briefs to a woman in Seattle on May 28,
claiming his Twitter account had been hacked. But on June 6, he
admitted he had lied and had inappropriate exchanges with six
women, some after he was married.
Since then, more lewd pictures of Weiner have surfaced,
making him daily fodder for tabloids and late-night comedians.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Weiner's fall "a
lost opportunity" that was "tragic."
(Writing by Mark Egan; Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Richard
Cowan, Thomas Ferraro, JoAnne Allen, Daniel Trotta and Paula
Rogo; Editing by Peter Cooney)