The Washington Post

White House calls Anthony Weiner scandal a ‘distraction’

President Obama on Monday waded into the debate over whether embattled Rep. Anthony Weiner should step down, saying, “If it was me, I would resign.”

“I think he’s embarrassed himself, he’s acknowledged that, he’s embarrassed his wife and his family,” Obama told NBC’s Ann Curry. “Ultimately, there’s going to be a decision for him and his constituents.”

Also Monday, the House approved Weiner’s request for a two-week leave of absence.

On Saturday, the New York Democrat entered treatment of an unspecified nature, following his admission last week that he had communicated inappropriately online with more than half a dozen women nationwide.

Obama’s statement came hours after White House press secretary Jay Carney stopped short of calling for Weiner’s resignation, saying only that what the New York Democrat had done was “inappropriate.”

“The president feels — we feel at the White House — this is a distraction,” Carney said. “As Congressman Weiner has said himself, his behavior was inappropriate, dishonesty was inappropriate.”

Although Obama’s later statement was not a clear call for resignation, the signal sent was unmistakable — particularly coming after a weekend in which several Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), engaged in a concerted public effort to push out the congressman for his online liaisons.

Weiner has, so far, resisted calls for him to step aside.

His request for a leave of absence was approved by a unanimous voice vote. During the leave, he will continue to receive his congressional salary of $174,000 a year, according to the Committee on House Administration.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suggested Monday that Democratic leaders should consider stripping the congressman of his perch on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But Pelosi said that Democratic leaders are focused solely on the issue of whether Weiner should resign.

Staff writer Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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