Congress admitted this week to sending lewd messages and photos to Anthony Weiner in an effort to persuade the representative from New York to give up his congressional seat.
Congress admitted this week to sending lewd messages and photos to Anthony Weiner in an effort to convince the representative from New York to give up his congressional seat.
On Monday, BigGovernment.com published a series of embarrassing photos of the Capitol building in a pair of BVDs that it said Congress had sent to Mr. Weiner, prompting Mr. Weiner to call a 4 p.m. news conference at the Sheraton hotel in Midtown only to cancel it after realizing that it was the Capitol building, and not himself, that was clad only in underwear.
Appearing on “Meet the Press” on NBC, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, covered only with a towel, defended the House action, saying Mr. Weiner had nobody to blame but himself for Congress’ reprehensible behavior.
Mr. Hoyer said all his colleagues agreed “that this is the process to take,” and he was confident that even Mr. Weiner would have a hard time bearing up against the barrage of vulgar messages that he is receiving from members of congress, many of whom have a lot more practice at this type of behavior than the 46-year-old representative.
Mr. Hoyer said Congress’ “bizarre and unacceptable behavior” in texting suggestive photographs to Mr. Weiner would make it “extraordinarily difficult” for him to continue to represent his constituents effectively.
On Wednesday, the House released 11 photographs of Congress in various stages of undress to the website TMZ, raising new questions about the elected officials’ use of Congressional facilities during their online exchanges with the disgraced representative.
Mr. Weiner’s spokeswoman, Risa Heller, declined to comment on the congressional action.
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said the extraordinary House action had been prompted by Mr. Weiner’s stubborn efforts to hold on to his Congressional seat. She said Democrats had been giving Mr. Weiner an opportunity to be circumspect, do the right thing, reach the conclusion that he needed to step down before his fellow House members took more rash and intolerable steps to get him to resign. When he had not done so by Saturday, she said, it became clear that Congress needed to begin speaking to Mr. Weiner “in a language he understood and that was completely unacceptable and indefensible.”
Though Ms. Wasserman Schultz said members of the House are “incredibly apologetic” and “devastated” by their behavior in this matter, she insisted that this shame is not enough to prevent them from going forward as long as Mr. Weiner remains in office.
Political observers pointed out that Congress has a long history of disgrace — including leaders receiving improper book royalties, illegal donations, and taking part in a kickback scheme — and were confident the august body would be able to survive any repercussions from its most recent scandalous behavior.
Some operatives, however, showed frustration with the slow pace of congressional dishonor and urged House members to go further.
In a charged debate on “Meet the Press” that featured Ms. Wasserman Schultz sparring with the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, Mr. Priebus accused Democrats of dragging their feet on the Weiner affair and rebuffing the bawdy suggestions offered by Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who in 2007 had admitted an unspecified “serious sin” after his telephone number appeared in the records of a Washington prostitution ring, and by John Ensign, a former senator from Nevada, whose political career took an abrupt turn in 2009 when he admitted to an affair with a former campaign staffer who was also the wife of a top aide.
Mr. Priebus, dressed in a blue tank top and holding a handwritten sign reading “it’s me,” said that he was “not defending these guys and neither should the Democrats.”
“We need to use every tool at our disposal — including those in the Senate,” he argued. “And we all know it is not that hard to find tools in the Senate.”
Philip Maddocks can be reached at email@example.com.