The White House on Monday called Rep. Anthony Weiner’s scandal “inappropriate” and a “distraction,” but stopped short of calling for his resignation from Congress.
Over the weekend, several Democratic leaders participated in a concerted public effort to push the New York Democrat out. So far, though, the White House has been all but silent on the issue.
Asked about it aboard Air Force One on Monday morning, White House press secretary Jay Carney offered the first criticisms from the Obama team, but he didn’t join in the chorus calling for Weiner’s job.
“The president feels — we feel at the White House, this is a distraction,” Carney said, according to a pool report. “As Congressman Weiner has said himself, his behavior was inappropriate, dishonesty was inappropriate. 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.”
Asked to clarify whether the White House was joining to calls for resignation, Carney wouldn’t commit.
“I answered that question,” he said. “We think it’s a distraction from the important business that this president needs to conduct and Congress need to conduct. Beyond that, I don’t have any more comment.”
On Saturday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel all called for Weiner to resign.
Since then, more photos have emerged that show what is apparently the congressman in various states of undress.
Rather than step aside, though, Weiner has opted for a “leave of absence.”
Carney said he wasn’t aware of any role the White House played in pushing for Weiner’s resignation over the weekend. But Obama looms as perhaps the one man who could, with one fell swoop, probably get the New York congressman to resign.
That said, a president calling for a member of Congress to resign may be looked on poorly by the legislative branch, which tends to guard its prerogatives ferociously.
If Obama joins the chorus, we will know that Democratic leaders are really worried about the burgeoning scandal.