President Barack Obama called U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner’s behavior “highly inappropriate” and said that if he were faced with the same situation, he would resign.
“I can tell you that if that was me, I would resign,” Obama said in an interview with NBC News. “When you get to the point where, because of various personal distractions, you can’t serve as effectively, then you should probably step back.”
The president’s comments today were his first on the scandal involving Weiner, a New York Democrat, who is seeking treatment following a pattern of behavior that included sending suggestive messages and lewd photos of himself to women he had met online. The NBC interview with Obama is scheduled for broadcast tomorrow morning on the network’s “Today” program.
Weiner was granted a two-week leave of absence tonight when no House member objected to his request after it was read aloud in the chamber by a clerk.
Senior Democrats in the House of Representatives, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, have called for Weiner to step down. Pelosi has also called for a House Ethics Committee investigation into Weiner’s conduct.
At a June 6 news conference, Weiner said he had made “terrible mistakes” and acknowledged previously lying by telling reporters he had been the victim of a hacker’s prank.
Weiner, 46, is requesting a leave of absence from the House “so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well,” his publicist, Risa Heller, said in an e-mailed statement June 11. Weiner is seeking “professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” Heller said.
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 statement.
Earlier today, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with Obama to an event in North Carolina that Weiner’s actions are “a distraction,” without saying whether he should resign.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, today urged Democrats to strip Weiner of his post on the House Energy and Commerce Committee if he doesn’t heed calls to resign.
Weiner admitted at his news conference that he had engaged in “inappropriate conversations” with six women over the last three years, including by e-mail, on Facebook and Twitter, and, with at least one of the women, on the telephone. He also said he wouldn’t resign his House seat, which he first won in 1998.
The New York Times reported June 11 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 the NBC interview Obama also said he is “absolutely confident” that the White House and lawmakers in Congress will reach a deal on cutting the nation’s long-term budget deficit and raising the $14.3 trillion federal debt ceiling.
Vice President Joe Biden is leading the talks, with the next session set for tomorrow at the Capitol.