Stay tuned: Rep. Anthony Weiner could rise again.
The embarrassed and embattled congressman who admitted to having raunchy online romances with at least six women closed out his political career with a brief resignation announcement on Thursday — but hinted that this wasn’t the last time we’ll see the lanky legislator from Midwood.
“I got into politics to help give a voice to the many who simply didn’t have one,” Weiner (D-Sheepshead Bay) told a huge throng at the Council Center for Seniors on Quentin Road near Coney Island Avenue — a bizarre mix of news reporters and seniors who recalled how Weiner kicked off his city council campaign in the same room in 1991. “Now I will be looking for other ways to contribute my talents. With God’s help and hard work, we will all be successful.”
Some believe that Weiner was laying the groundwork for a period of reflection, followed by a public return with the backing of his wife and, perhaps, another run for office — even his own, as Slate’s Josh Chafetz proposed this week.
Since Weiner hasn’t committed a crime, and arguably has not even committed a serious ethics violation, why not let the voters decide?” Chafetz wrote on Wednesday. “And the best way for him to do that is simply to resign and run in the special election that would be called to fill his seat.”
Indeed, few are ruling out a comeback, judging by the open-ended language of other politician’s post-resignation statements.
“Anthony Weiner was an effective and passionate advocate for the people he represented,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, Weiner’s longtime mentor. “He has served his community, city and country well for over two decades.”
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Park Slope) added that Weiner “has been a fierce and loyal advocate on behalf of his constituents.”
“I am hopeful, in the future, he will continue to be a strong, effective and progressive leader,” she added.
Weiner’s resignation comes three weeks after he accidentally sent a shot of his underwear-cover erection to thousands of Twitter followers, opening the door to a saucy cyber scandal known as “Weinergate.”
His final remarks were brief as he explained that he was resigning so he could patch things up with his pregnant wife Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. More than half of Weiner’s online dalliances took place in the 10 months that the two have been married. Abedin was noticeably absent from Thursday’s press conference.
“My wife and I [need] to heal from the damage I have caused,” Weiner said.
He also apologized for disappointing his Brooklyn constituency.
“There is no higher honor in a democracy than to be sent by your neighbors to represent them in the House of Representatives,” he said. “It is particularly humbling to represent this district because residents here are hard working, patriotic, opinionated and authentic. I had hoped to continue the work the people in this district elected me to do. Unfortunately, the distraction I have created has made that impossible.”
He left without taking questions.
Weiner has been on an emotional roller coaster ride ever since the Twitter scandal broke on May 27.
At first — when he claimed someone had hacked his Twitter account and sent the photo without his knowledge — Weiner joked about the lewd post. But as reporters dug deeper, the usually talkative Weiner became increasingly ashen faced and tight lipped.
Weiner was wiping away tears on June 6 when he admitted to not only sending the soft-core tweet, but to having several raunchy online affairs, one of which turned out to be with porn star Ginger Lee.
Yet Weiner appeared to have gotten some of his groove back on Thursday, giving reporters just a glimpse of the self-assured, playful neighborhood guy lovingly known as the “Midwood Mouth.”
But his remarks were carefully choreographed; Weiner let nothing sidetrack him as he read his prepared remarks — including the barrage of lewd questions thrown at him by Howard Stern show staffer Benjy Bronk, who hid in the reporter huddle before stealing the congressman’s moment.
“Were you erect [in the picture]?” Bronk yelled before police escorted him out of the room. “Are you more than seven inches?” he added, an apparent reference to Weiner’s penis size.
Many of the seniors in the room booed when Weiner announced that he would leave office, but he left without stopping to talk to them. But one nonagenarian, Frances Freedman, button-holed Weiner in the hallway and told him to have “courage.
“We all make mistakes,” the 97-year-old told the former congressman.
Septuagenarian Margaret Sigman, a longtime center member, agreed with the sentiment that Weiner shouldn’t have stepped down.
“He represented the seniors very well here,” she said. “There’s no reason for him to resign as far as I’m concerned. He should get some help, and all of this should be between him and his wife.”
Yet center member Phillip Burzen wasn’t so sympathetic.
“I’m sorry I had to hear this guy apologize,” Burzen said. “It’s terrible what he did and he should have resigned long ago.”
Brooklynites were willing to forgive Weiner’s misdeeds at first, but that was before more information — and pictures — were released. Two days after Weiner came clean about his love of sexting and sending lewd photos of himself to young women, a NY1 poll showed that 56 percent of his constituents wanted him to stay put.
But a nationwide poll taken on Tuesday showed the reverse: more than 60 percent of Democrats wanted him to leave office. Even President Obama and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recommended he should pack his bags.
Weiner may be planning on resurrecting his political career down the line, yet images of the congressman clad only in a towel will be seared into the minds of residents for some time.
But all is not lost, according to Midwood resident Ben Nachmany. Another career for Weiner could be right around the corner.
“He should be in the porn business,” Nachmany said. “But, no matter what, he should leave us alone. We don’t want to keep explaining to our kids why our politicians are acting like porn stars.”
— with Aaron Short and Dan MacLeod