White House: Weiner scandal "a distraction"

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., is surrounded by reporters as he arrives at his house in Queens, New York, June 9, 2011. Weiner admitted that he had Tweeted sexually charged messages and photos to at least six women and lied about it.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., is surrounded by reporters as he arrives at his house in the Queens borough of New York, Thursday, June 9, 2011.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Updated: 2:13 p.m. ET

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Monday called the scandal surrounding Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., inappropriate and "a distraction from important business," although he stopped short of calling for the resignation of the embattled congressman.

"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 told reporters on Air Force 1 on the way to North Carolina, where President Obama will make a speech on jobs later this afternoon.

But, he emphasized, Weiner's indiscretions were not Mr. Obama's top concern.

"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."

Carney added that, to his knowledge, top White House aides were not involved in calling for the resignation of Weiner. When pressed more specifically on whether or not the White House thought he should resign, Carney refrained from making an overt statement.

"I answered that question," Carney responded. "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."

Weiner, who has been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent weeks after the revelation that he had been sending lewd pictures of himself to women, said on Saturday that he would take a leave of absence from Congress to seek professional help, but has so far resisted the increasing calls for his resignation.

Recent reports, however, indicate that he may be considering stepping down after all - particularly in light of the revelation of a new batch of photos, which depict the congressman in various stages of undress at a Capitol Hill gym reserved for the use of House members.

A number of congressional leaders - including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz - have called for his resignation.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor urged Democratic leadership to take action, suggesting they "begin to move...toward things like perhaps stripping him of his" post on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to Politico.

"I don't think that we have time for this," Cantor added. "We obviously have a lot of other issues to be concerned with."

New York reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D) and Steve Israel (D) have also called for Weiner to step down, although the state's senators, Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, have so far refrained from making that call.

"I am heartbroken," Schumer said in a recent statement. "For those of us who are longtime friends of Anthony Weiner, his wrongful behavior is distressing and saddening. It's clear he needs professional help, and I am glad he is seeking it."

Gillibrand, too, refrained from calling for Weiner's resignation.

"My heart is with Anthony's wife and family," she said. "My office will work to ensure all the constituents of the 9th congressional District are fully served during any leave of absence by Congressman Weiner."