A Pennsylvania congresswoman became the first Democratic House colleague to call for Rep. Anthony Weiner’s resignation on Wednesday, and the White House pointedly passed up a chance to defend him, ominous signs for a lawmaker struggling to survive a sex scandal in the age of social media.
“Having the respect of your constituents is fundamental for a member of Congress,” Rep. Allyson Schwartz said in a statement, venturing where other prominent Democratic officials have been unwilling to go.
“In light of Anthony Weiner’s offensive behavior online, he should resign.”
At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said, “We have no comment” on the New York congressman, who has admitted to exchanging explicit photos and messages through Twitter, Facebook, email and occasionally on the phone with roughly six women in recent years.
One lawmaker said that in a phone conversation during the day, Weiner indicated he hopes to ride out the furor and remain in Congress. The lawmaker spoke on condition of anonymity, saying it was a private conversation.
At the same time, Weiner’s own words suggested there may be other, more troubling revelations ahead.
At a news conference on Monday, he did not deny that there might be an x-rated photo of himself in existence or that he had engaged in phone sex. He also admitted he could not be sure none of the women with whom he flirted was underage.
Weiner has not issued any public statements in two days.
The 46-year-old lawmaker initially resorted to denials last week when asked about a lewd photo of himself that was sent to a woman via Twitter. He recanted at an extraordinary news conference on Monday during which he apologized for his actions but said he was not resigning.
He has come under increasing pressure from fellow Democrats, who have talked openly of eliminating his congressional seat when it comes time to redistrict before the 2012 election, or perhaps fielding a primary opponent to challenge him.
Weiner has adamantly denied ever meeting any of the women and has said he never had a physical relationship with any of them.
If so, that would make his case a sexless sex scandal but one that illustrates the ability of social media sites to spread controversy almost instantaneously across the country.
Weiner’s predicament has roiled the Democratic Party, particularly the women who hold leadership posts and have faced a choice between calling for a resignation or hoping that refraining from doing so would lead him to quit without being told.
In the interim, few pass up the chance to signal to Weiner that he should step down.
The head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Sen. Patty Murray, told reporters during the day that Weiner’s troubles “of course” complicate the party’s efforts ahead of in the 2012 elections.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. said, “I just view it with great surprise and dismay. That’s all I can say.”
Feinstein and Murray were first elected to the Senate in 1992, the so-called “year of the women” that was a watershed in Democratic political history.
The party’s leader in the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California has called for an ethics committee investigation to see whether Weiner’s actions violated any House rules.
Pelosi and the party’s chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, declined to respond directly on Tuesday when the Republican chairman, Reince Priebus, urged them to say whether they believe Weiner should step down.
The Democratic National Committee has adamantly refused to comment, while a spokesman in Wasserman Schultz’s congressional office has said only that she supports Pelosi’s call for an ethics investigation.
By contrast, the former Democratic Party chairman, Tim Kaine, has urged Weiner to quit. Kaine is running for the Senate in Virginia.
While declining to make any public comments since Monday, Weiner has been on something of an apology tour by telephone.
He has contacted fellow House members and former President Bill Clinton, who officiated at the congressman’s wedding to Huma Abedin nearly a year ago.
Abedin is a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and currently is deputy chief of staff at the State Department.
The officials who spoke about the telephone calls did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were private matters.
Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman and Andrew Miga in Washington and Beth Fouhy in New York contributed to this story.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.