US & Canada

Anthony Weiner scandal: Democrats call for ethics probe

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Media captionCongressman Weiner apologised to his family and his constituents

Democratic leaders have called for an ethics inquiry into actions by a New York congressman who admitted sending flirtatious photos of himself to women.

Congressman Anthony Weiner on Monday admitted "inappropriate" communications but said he would not resign.

The married Democrat admitted sending a shot of his crotch to an admirer.

Senior Democrat Nancy Pelosi said the House ethics committee should examine whether he used "official resources" in the matter or broke other ethics rules.

"I am deeply disappointed and saddened about this situation; for Anthony's wife, Huma, his family, his staff and his constituents," Ms Pelosi said in a statement released on Monday night.

"I am calling for an Ethics Committee investigation to determine whether any official resources were used or any other violation of House rules occurred."

Congressman Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Mr Weiner had "engaged in a deep personal failure and inappropriate behaviour that embarrassed himself, his family, and the House".

"Ultimately, Anthony and his constituents will make a judgment about his future," he said.

'Rising star'

Republicans and conservatives, meanwhile, noted that in February Republican Representative Christopher Lee of New York resigned after it emerged he had engaged in apparently similar behaviour - sending a shirtless photo of himself to a woman whom he met on the Craig's List classified advert website.

Mr Weiner was regarded as a rising star in the Democratic party and a strong candidate for New York City mayor in 2013.

But after he admitted the online dalliances in an emotional press conference on Monday, analysts noted the lack of Democratic colleagues standing in his defence.

Although none have called for Mr Weiner to step down, analysts said the official launch of a House Ethics committee investigation could prompt him to do so.

The matter began on Friday 27 May, when conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart published a photo of a man's crotch in grey underpants that it said had been sent from Mr Weiner's Twitter account.

Mr Weiner said his account had been hacked, and later gave a series of bumbling interviews in which he said he had not sent the photo - but also said he could not be sure it was not of his body part.

On Monday, Mr Breitbart's blog published more photos of Mr Weiner - including two of him shirtless - which he said he had obtained from a woman with whom Mr Weiner had flirted online.

A tearful Mr Weiner later admitted misleading the press and told a news conference he was "deeply ashamed of my terrible judgement".

"I'm deeply regretting what I have done and I'm not resigning," he said, apologising for any pain caused to his family, constituents, supporters and staff.

He said he had intended to send the close-up picture of himself in his underpants as a direct message on Twitter.

Direct messages can only be viewed by the addressee, whereas normal Twitter messages are generally accessible.

"Once I realised that I had posted to Twitter I panicked, I took it down and said that I had been hacked," Mr Weiner said.

He then said he had had exchanges with women he met online both before and after he married Huma Abedin, a top aide to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, last year.

"I have exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years."

But he said he had not met the women, and had never had sex outside his marriage.

Mr Weiner, a native New Yorker and former New York City Council member, is known for his outspoken liberal views and his fiery speeches on the floor of the US House of Representatives.

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