NEW YORK » Anthony Weiner pressed ahead with his campaign for mayor today, brushing off growing calls for him to drop out over a newly disclosed round of raunchy exchanges with a woman online.
Rivals, newspaper editorial pages and at least one former New York congressional colleague urged the Democrat to quit the race a day after he acknowledged exchanging raunchy messages and photos online even after the same sort of behavior destroyed his congressional career two years ago.
“I think he should pull out of the race. I think he needs serious psychiatric help,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
Weiner brushed off such calls as he prepared to testify at a public housing hearing and participate in a candidate forum in the evening.
“I have posited this whole campaign on a bet, and that is that, at the end of the day, citizens are more interested in the challenge they face in their lives than in anything that I have done, embarrassing, in my past,” he told an encampment of reporters as he left his Manhattan home in the morning.
“This is not about me” but about voters, he said, and headed for his campaign office.
The latest scandal erupted Tuesday after the gossip website The Dirty posted X-rated messages and a crotch shot it said he exchanged with a woman last year while using the online alias “Carlos Danger.”
At a news conference Tuesday evening, Weiner, who has been a favorite in the polls since he launched his political comeback attempt in late May, stood side-by-side with his clearly uncomfortable wife, Huma Abedin, and said he hoped the voters would give him another chance.
Abedin, a longtime adviser to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, reaffirmed her love and support for her husband and said the matter was “between us.”
Two of the city’s major newspapers, The New York Times and the Daily News, said the 48-year-old Democrat had exhausted his opportunities for forgiveness with his latest indiscretions.
“The serially evasive Mr. Weiner should take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye” and the mayoral race, the Times wrote.
The Daily News declared Weiner to be “lacking the dignity and discipline that New York deserves in a mayor,” and said “his demons have no place in City Hall.”
At least three of his mayoral rivals, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former City Councilman Sal Albanese, both Democrats, and billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, a Republican, said he should drop out.
“Anthony’s presence in this race has become a never-ending sideshow that is distracting us from the debate of the serious issues of this election,” de Blasio said.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Weiner’s strongest rivals in the polls, criticized him but didn’t directly call on him to quit.
Thompson said on WNYC-AM that Weiner should “think about the people of this city and make the right decision,” while Quinn said at a news conference that it is up to Weiner and his family to decide whether he should end his run, but New Yorkers “need a mayor whose is sole focus isn’t self-aggrandizement.”
Weiner has emphasized that he said when launching his campaign that more messages might emerge. But until Tuesday, he never said directly that some were sent as recently as last year.
“I regret not saying explicitly when these exchanges happened,” he told supporters in an email Wednesday.
But Weiner said the campaign was “too important to give up because I’ve had embarrassing personal things become public.” And he said he wasn’t surprised his opponents wanted him out.
Democratic strategists in New York and Washington, where Weiner served seven terms before resigning in 2011, said there are few external means of pressuring Weiner to drop out.
Weiner has nearly $5 million to spend on the campaign, allowing him to mount a vigorous defense on television. Also, he was not particularly close to his colleagues in the congressional delegation, the strategists said, so he might be unmoved if they urge him to exit the race.
As for the voters, some want Weiner to go.
“He’s disgusting,” said magazine editorial assistant Katelin Marinari, 24.
But others said they would still vote for him.
“Do I think morally he’s wrong? Of course. But I’m not voting for a minister; I’m voting for a mayor of New York,” said public relations worker Raven Robinson, 22.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday continued to place Weiner in the top rung of Democratic contenders with Quinn and Thompson, though it was taken largely before the scandal broke.
The unidentified woman involved in the newly disclosed messages told The Dirty that she was 22 when she began chatting with Weiner on a social networking site in July 2012, and that their exchanges lasted six months.
The Dirty posted explicit conversations of two people fantasizing about various sex acts, and ran a pixelated photo of what it said were Weiner’s genitals.
Associated Press writers Jake Pearson in New York and Stephen Olemacher and Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.