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White House calls Anthony Weiner a 'distraction,' adding to pressure on New York congressman

June 13, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli | Washington Bureau
(Michael Nagle / Getty Images )

The White House on Monday shifted course on Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), calling his ongoing saga a "distraction" but stopping short of a public call for his resignation.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One en route to North Carolina, Press Secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama feels that Weiner's behavior and dishonesty were "inappropriate."

"But 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 said, as Obama traveled for a jobs-focused event in the Tar Heel State.

Last week, Carney said that the White House would not comment on Weiner, after the lawmaker's admission that he engaged in inappropriate online communication with a handful of women and then lied when lewd photos became public.

This weekend, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and other senior Democrats, including DNC Chair and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, called on him to step down. It's unlikely that Wasserman Schultz's statement, in particular, would have come without the president's blessing. Since then, even more embarrassing photos have come to light, pictures that it appears Weiner took while working out in the House gym.

Asked if White House aides were involved in the new pressure on Weiner to step down, Carney was coy.

"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 comment," he said.

Weiner, bucking his colleagues' demands, has said he will seek a leave of absence from the House to seek professional treatment.

Staff writer Peter Nicholas contributed reporting from aboard Air Force One.

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