An embarrassed Rep. Anthony Weiner acknowledged this afternoon that a "deep personal failing" led him to conduct sexually explicit online chats with women over Facebook and Twitter.
During a press conference in New York City that veered between the acutely embarrassing and mildly lewd, the New York Democrat said he had exercised "terrible judgment" and lied to his family, his constituents, and the press about using Twitter to send a photo of his underwear revealing a certain distinctive outline underneath. (See previous CNET coverage.)
Weiner said he would not resign--unlike former Rep. Christopher Lee (R-N.Y.), who voluntarily left office in February after sending a photograph of his naked torso to a woman who left a personal ad on Craigslist.
What led to Weiner's press conference, where he insisted that he had not violated congressional rules or his oath of office, was a collaborative digital forensics effort among bloggers who pored over photographic metadata and other evidence in an effort to uncover whether he was lying or whether his account had, as he claimed, been hacked.
Weiner's Twitter account was used last month to address a photo of his erect genitalia to Gennette Cordova, a 21-year-old college student in Seattle who claims she's never met the married politician. Today he acknowledged having sex-related chats with "about" six women, through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and on the phone, both before and after his marriage to Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
One analysis reviewed congressional Twitter feeds recorded by the nonpartisan group TweetCongress.org and found that the crotch message and others appearing at the same time came from the same application. Another found that the Yfrog image-uploading service said it had not been compromised.
But it was an article posted this morning on BigGovernment.com, illustrated with photos of a rather buff and not fully clothed Weiner, that appears to have sparked the congressman's confession. It was followed by another, written by Meagan Broussard, a 26-year-old college student, who said she was contacted by Weiner after "liking" his Facebook page: "He was trying to get me to talk about myself sexually."
Andrew Breitbart, the publisher of BigGovernment.com, took the microphone at Weiner's press conference before it began and said there's a more embarrassing photo of the congressman that BigGovernment.com obtained but did not publish. "I'm doing this to save his family," Breitbart said. (See video from our sister site, CBSNews.com.)
About the only ingredient this story had lacked was a porn star. And it turns out that one of Weiner's female correspondents was porn star and stripper Ginger Lee, a Twitter aficionado, who mentioned in March that "you know it's a good day when you wake up" to a direct message from the congressman.
Weiner said he wasn't certain of the ages of all the women he chatted with, saying that "to the best of my knowledge they're all adults." He said he had not had sex with any of them.
Also this afternoon, RadarOnline.com posted excerpts from what it described as a confirmed transcript of a sex chat between Weiner and one of his social-networking correspondents that included details about oral sex.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi distributed this statement after Weiner's press conference: "I am calling for an Ethics Committee investigation to determine whether any official resources were used or any other violation of House rules occurred."