Anthony Weiner admitted to lying about a lewd photo he sent to a college student in Washington state, telling reporters at a press conference in New York that he concocted a phony hacking story in a panic after deleting the public message.
“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,” he said, fighting back tears. “Once I realized I had posted to Twitter, I panicked, I took it down and said I had been hacked. I then continued to stick to that story which was a hugely regrettable mistake.”
He added: “To be clear, the picture was of me and I sent this. I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife Huma and our family and my constituents, friends, supporters and staff.”
As for his own future, Weiner pledged to remain in Congress, saying he had not broken any law to his knowledge. “I am not resigning,” Weiner said, telling reporters he would try to convince his constituents this was a “personal failing” and did not alter his record.
Weiner said that he traded inappropriate messages and emails with six women over the last three years, including some exchanges after his marriage last year to Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton. Abedin was not present at the press conference. Weiner said he thought the women he exchanged messages with were all of legal age, but he conceded he had no way to know for sure.
“I don’t know the exact ages of the women,” he said. “And I don’t know if you do, I’m going to respect their privacy. But they were all adults — at least, to the best of my knowledge, they were all adults, and they were engaging in these conversations consensually.”
Weiner’s press conference came as one of the women came forward publicly, telling ABC News that she had traded dozens of photos and messages with the Congressman in recent weeks, including the infamous photo that he accidentally tweeted last month.
Weiner told reporters he spoke briefly with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi before his press conference. “She was not happy,” he said.
While he was considering treatment, he said he did not want to blame his behavior on any disorder or addiction. He said that he had never had a physical relationship with any of the woman involved in the story.
“I’ve never had sex outside my marriage,” he said.
The press conference came hours after apparent photos of the Congressman surfaced on conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart’s site, some of which depicted Weiner without a shirt. Breitbart claimed his source was a woman who had emailed with Weiner. In a surreal scene, Breitbart himself crashed Weiner’s press conference to boast about his role in the scandal, which included posting a screengrab of the initial tweet last month that touched off the story.
Weiner’s troubles began after a lewd photo was sent from his public Twitter feed to a Washington college student last month. He denied sending the picture, claiming he was hacked, but repeatedly said he couldn’t say “with certitude” whether the photo depicted himself and provided few details about the nature of the apparent cyber-attack. The woman who received the tweet said in a statement she did not have a relationship with Weiner, but the Congressman told reporters on Monday he did not coach her handling of the situation. He did, however, contact her to apologize.
“I was embarrassed and I didn’t want it to lead to other embarrassing things,” he said of his cover-up attempt, “and it was a dumb thing to do to try to tell lies about it because it just led to more lies.”
This story has been updated.