WASHINGTON — After days of denials, a choked-up Rep. Anthony Weiner confessed Monday that he tweeted a photo of his bulging underpants to a young woman, and admitted to "inappropriate" exchanges with six women before and after he got married.
He apologized for lying but said he would not resign.
"This was me doing a dumb thing and doing it repeatedly and lying about it," the 46-year-old New York Democrat after a week of double-entendre headlines and late-night wisecracks.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi immediately called for an ethics committee investigation into whether Weiner broke House rules.
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Pelosi said, "I am deeply disappointed and saddened about this situation; for Anthony's wife, Huma, his family, his staff and his constituents."
Weiner said later that he will fully cooperate with an ethics investigation.
Rep. Steve Israel, the House Democrats' campaign chief, said the New York congressman had "embarrassed himself, his family and the House." A spokeswoman for Democratic whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Hoyer urged Weiner to come clean about the messages and photos he sent on Twitter.
Weiner, who was widely expected to run for mayor of New York in 2013, said at the news conference that he had never met any of the women he corresponded with online and sometimes via telephone, and was not even sure of their ages. He also said he had never had sex outside of his marriage.
He said he did not think the scandal affected his work as a lawmaker but would understand if his constituents decided not to re-elect him. "I'm going to work very hard to win back their trust," he said.
Weiner said he used his home computer and personal BlackBerry, not government computers, in his exchanges with the women. But that may not protect him from House rules that say a member "shall conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House."
The House ethics committee on numerous occasions has cited that general rule in finding a member violated standards of conduct.
Weiner said repeatedly that he had made "terrible mistakes" and done "a very dumb thing" for which he bore complete responsibility, and he apologized repeatedly to his wife, Huma Abedin.
"My wife is a remarkable woman. She's not responsible for any of this," he said.
Abedin did not attend his news conference, but Weiner said they would not be separating.
The scandal unfolded more than a week ago when a conservative website reported that a photo of a man's crotch had been sent from Weiner's Twitter account to a college student in Seattle. For days, Weiner claimed that he hadn't sent the photo and that he was the victim of a hacker. But he caused guffaws when he said that he couldn't say with "certitude" that the underwear shot was not a picture of him.
The scandal escalated when the website, BigGovernment.com, run by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, posted photos purportedly from a second woman who said she received shirtless shots of the congressman. The site said the pictures were in a cache of intimate online photographs, chats and e-mail exchanges the woman claimed to have. The website did not identify her.
Also, the celebrity website RadarOnline.com said a woman claimed to have 200 sexually explicit messages from Weiner through a Facebook account that Weiner no longer uses. It was not clear whether she was the person who claimed to have received the text messages.
At Monday's news conference Weiner said he sent the underpants photo as a joke and called it a "hugely regrettable mistake."
"I haven't told the truth and have done things I deeply regret," he said. "I brought pain to people I care about."
ABC News said Monday it planned to air an interview with a Texas woman, Meagan Broussard, who claims to be one of the women who exchanged messages with Weiner. The 26-year-old single mother said she has dozens of e-mails, Facebook messages and cellphone logs that document more than a month of flirting that started on April 20.
Earlier Monday before Weiner's public admission, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked whether Weiner could continue to effectively represent New Yorkers.
"It's always up to the constituents," Bloomberg said, adding that it was "time to get back and focus on the serious things."