New York Rep. Anthony Weiner soberly announced his resignation from Congress Thursday, finally bowing to the uproar from his sexually explicit online exchanges with other women, and serving as another example of the role social media is playing in politics.
“I am announcing my resignation from Congress, so my colleagues can get back to work, my neighbors can choose a new representative and most important, so that my wife and I can continue to heal from the damage I have caused,” The seventh term Democratic congressman said at the news conference, which drew both hecklers and supporters.
This latest announcement comes after Weiner admitted at another press conference earlier this month that he used Twitter to send a photo of himself in underwear to women, and the incident was part of an inappropriate pattern of online relationships where explicit photos and messages were exchanged with several other women, using e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.
Since then, the congressman has been the focus of speculation and controversy, and while he was emphatic he would not resign, continuing details of the dalliances, complete with online evidence like e-mailed correspondence and photos, proved too much to overcome.
Just as the general population is embracing social media, so are politicians — using it to campaign, raise money and connect with constituents. Nothing says “regular guy” more than a Tweet about reading a goodnight story to your son, and the capability of the social media to coordinate groups of people makes it a perfect political tool.
On the other hand, Weiner’s case and others like it, including Rep. Chris Lee (R., N.Y) who resigned after he was caught responding to a personal ad on Craigslist with a shirtless photo of himself, illustrate when the political and personal collide on social media, the results can be disastrous.
Social media’s role in increasingly complicated and multi-faceted lives can send out mixed messages, as was the case last fall when retiring Sen. Chris Dodd (D, Conn.) used a profane word in a quick tweet about his frustrations. Dodd apologized for the slip, which serves as an example that no matter how a social message like that was intended, it is often how it comes across in black and white that will matter most.
After Weiner’s press conference, Democratic Party leaders, who had called for the congressman’s resignation determining that the scandal would be too damaging in light of the upcoming 2012 presidential elections, welcomed the news.