POSTED: 09:32 a.m. HST, Jun 15, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 01:06 p.m. HST, Jun 15, 2011
NEW YORK >> A former porn actress who exchanged emails and messages over Twitter with Rep. Anthony Weiner said today that he asked her to lie about their interactions, while a growing chorus of lawmakers pressed for his resignation as the scandal enveloping the congressman enters its third week.
Weiner has told friends he wanted to speak with his pregnant wife, Huma Abedin, before deciding whether to resign. She returned to Washington early today from a trip to Africa with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Nightclub dancer Ginger Lee is the latest in a series of women who said they received sexually charged messages from the seven-term congressman. The scandal began when Weiner posted a picture of his underwear-clad crotch on Twitter, then lied about it and said his account was hacked. Weiner acknowledged last week during a teary press conference that he had sent lewd photos and messages to about six women over three years.
Lee, from La Vergne, Tenn., said she and Weiner exchanged about 100 emails between March and June, after Lee posted a supportive statement about the congressman on her blog. He then contacted her on Twitter, Lee said. They mostly discussed politics, but he would often turn the conversation to sex, she said.
"'I have wardrobe demands too. I need to highlight my package,"' Weiner wrote Lee, in an email read aloud at the news conference by Lee's attorney, Gloria Allred.
The 46-year-old congressman, who has taken a two-week leave from the House, was in treatment for an undisclosed disorder at an undisclosed location. A spokeswoman declined to comment.
In an interview two weeks ago, he said he had exchanged messages with Lee but didn't elaborate.
Lee said she did not send sexually suggestive messages to Weiner.
"Anytime that he would take our communications in a sexual direction, I did not reciprocate," she said.
After the first photo surfaced, Lee asked Weiner what to do and "he asked me to lie" about their contact, she said.
Lee said she put out a three-sentence statement on the matter at his request.
That statement said: "I haven't met Rep. Weiner. I follow him on Twitter because I support him and what he stands for. I have been hounded by his political opponents but that hasn't changed my view of him and what he fights for."
At the news conference, Lee said that after issuing the statement, "I didn't want to say anything further. I refused to lie so I went silent and went into hiding."
But she and Weiner kept communicating about what to do, she said. Neither Lee nor Allred addressed what Weiner asked Lee to then say or do.
On June 2, Weiner called her and told her to avoid the media, Lee said. She said she was coming forward now to tell the truth and to deny reports that she was in an online sexual relationship with Weiner.
"Once it got to a point that he lied on national television, then I knew that anything I said after that would have to be either a lie or an admission," she said.
Lee said she contacted an attorney after receiving threats from "an individual who threatened to release a statement from me which I did not authorize."
She did not identify that person or tell what the statement said.
Allred is a Los Angeles attorney who has represented figures in high-profile sex scandals, including a woman who said she was a girlfriend of Tiger Woods and a former child actress who said she had an affair with former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
She said Lee works as a "featured dancer" at a club but no longer appears in adult films. She is also studying to be a real estate agent, Allred said.
Lee had to miss work when her name surfaced in news reports but will return to work at an unidentified club today, the lawyer added.
In Washington, the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, reiterated her call for Weiner to quit, saying after the meeting that she wanted to make sure nobody missed her earlier resignation call while members were on a weeklong recess.
Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., added: "We should send a strong message to him that he should resign, and let's see what happens. The more of us who say it, the more telling it will be."
House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, had been content to let Democrats wrestle with the embarrassing scandal, but when asked Tuesday whether Weiner should resign, he responded, "Yes."
The furor over sexually suggestive photos and other revelations about Weiner has been a distraction for Democrats seeking momentum as they gear up for the 2012 elections. Besides Pelosi, several other Democrats have called for Weiner to quit, including the party chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.