In a bombshell announcement, Brooklyn-Queens Congressman Anthony Weiner admitted Monday afternoon to sending racy online messages to six women over the last three years, after claiming for several days that he had nothing to do with a lewd photo posted from his Twitter account.
Speaking at a Midtown press conference, the prospective mayoral candidate said he will not resign from Congress and that he accepts "full responsibility" for his actions.
"This is a deep weakness that I have demonstrated," Weiner said.
The 46-year-old congressman said he has never had sex outside his marriage, and said that he sent the suggestive messages and pictures to women he had never met in person.
He broke down several times while apologizing to his wife and his supporters.
"Over the past few years I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and occasionally over the phone with women I had met online. I've exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years," Weiner said. "For the most part these communications took place before my marriage, but some of them sadly took place after."
Weiner married Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in July 2010.
"My wife has known about some of these relationships since before we were married," Weiner said, but added that he only admitted to Abedin this morning that he had sent the recent Twitter photo.
"I am deeply sorry and I accept full responsibility for what I have done," Weiner said.
On Monday morning a conservative website, BigGovernment.com, posted shirtless photos of the congressman that were allegedly sent to a woman on May 20. They are said to have come from a Yahoo email address that the woman identified as Weiner's.
Andrew Breitbart, the publisher of BigGovernment.com, took the podium at Weiner's press conference before Weiner arrived and answered questions from the press before the congressman approached the podium. He later stayed to listen to Weiner's statement, which included an apology to Breitbart and other members of the media.
Another site, RadarOnline.com, said a young woman had come forward with 200 sexually explicit messages she says were sent from Weiner. The website says it verified that the account where the messages originated does belong to the congressman.
Weiner said he did not think he violated the Constitution with his actions. However late Monday afternoon House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asked for an ethics committee meeting to see if Weiner has broken any House rules.
Later Monday, Senator Charles Schumer, who years ago mentored Weiner when Weiner was a young staffer, released a statement saying, "I am deeply pained and saddened by today’s news. By fully explaining himself, apologizing to all he hurt and taking full responsibility for his wrongful actions, Anthony did the right thing. He remains a talented and committed public servant, and I pray he and his family can get through these difficult times."
The controversy started roughly two weeks ago, when a picture of a man in briefs with a visible bulge was sent to a 21-year-old Seattle college student from Weiner's Twitter account.
Once allegations that the congressman sent the lewd photograph began to emerge, Weiner denied that he had sent it, claiming that his account must have been hacked.
But as members of the media continued to press him on the subject, he said that he could not say with "certitude" that the picture was not of him.
Weiner's own uncertainty about the origins of the photo turned the social-media gaffe into a national story.
On Monday Weiner apologized to the media for having lied about the initial Twitter incident.
"I lied because I was embarrassed, and I'm still embarrassed," he said.
The congressman kept a low profile in recent days. He skipped out on a speech he was supposed to give in Wisconsin on Friday. He was also missing from Sunday's Celebrate Israel Parade, an event he attends regularly.