President Barack Obama believes U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner was wrong to send a lewd picture of himself over Twitter and then lie about it, and the continuing scandal surrounding the New York Democrat is a distraction from important national business, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.
Carney’s comments were the first by the administration since the scandal broke in late May.
“The president feels, we feel at the White House, this is a distraction, as Congressman Weiner has said himself, his behavior was inappropriate; dishonesty was inappropriate,” Carney said aboard Air Force One during a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina.
“But the president is focused on his job, which is getting this economy continuing to grow, creating jobs and ensuring the safety and security of the American people.”
Weiner has been in the spotlight since a lewd photograph of the congressman became public after it was sent to a woman over the Twitter social networking service.
After initially claiming that his account had been hacked, Weiner admitted that he sent the picture and had engaged in several inappropriate relationships with women he had met online.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called for an ethics committee investigation to determine whether Weiner misused government resources while conducting the online relationships. She and a number of prominent Democrats have since called for him to resign.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, went a step further Monday, saying Democrats should force Weiner to step down.
“I think he should resign. I think his leaders should do everything they can to bring him to that point if he’s not already,” Cantor said. “I’m hoping that (House Democrats) will begin to move, if he does not resign, towards things like perhaps stripping him of his committees and others. I don’t think we have time for this.”
When asked whether Democrats are considering action such as taking away Weiner’s assignment on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, the No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer, said, “As I said yesterday, he’s taking a leave. He’s going to think about what he’s going to do, and we’ll wait to see what he decides.”
Weiner has said he does not plan to step aside. Instead, he has decided to seek treatment “to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” his spokeswoman said Saturday.
While he is seeking treatment at an undisclosed location, he will ask for a “short leave of absence” from Congress, Risa Heller said in a statement.
The president’s staff has not been involved in calling for Weiner’s resignation, Carney said.