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updated 6/11/2011 6:19:04 PM ET 2011-06-11T22:19:04

Under fierce pressure from fellow Democrats to resign in a sexting scandal, Rep. Anthony Weiner announced Saturday he was entering professional treatment at an undisclosed location and requested a leave of absence from Congress.

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An aide for the embattled New York lawmaker made the disclosure in a statement shortly after several Democratic party leaders demanded he quit for exchanging messages and photos ranging from sexually suggestive to explicit with several women online.

"This sordid affair has become an unacceptable distraction for Representative Weiner, his family, his constituents and the House," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party chairwoman, said in a written statement calling for the 46-year-old married lawmaker to step down.

The House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, said Weiner "has the love of his family, the confidence of his constituents and the recognition that he needs help. I urge Congressman Weiner to seek that help without the pressures of being a member of Congress."

Aides said later that Pelosi had been aware of Weiner's plan to enter treatment when she issued her statement, and her call for a resignation had not changed because of it.

Weiner's spokeswoman, Risa Heller, said in the statement that the congressman departed during the morning "to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person. In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well."

The statement did not say where he would receive treatment, or what type was involved. Others familiar with his plans said he had left New York by air.

Also joining in calls for Weiner to quit was New York Democratic Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a member of the party's leadership.

In an interview, Israel said he had told Weiner in a phone call during the day "that I was going to call on him to resign and he absorbed that. Obviously he had much more personal and pressing issues that he was addressing.

"He didn't give me any indication of whether he was going to resign or not," Israel said.

Slideshow: Sex scandals and elected officials (on this page)

Pelosi, the former House Speaker, also spoke with Weiner during the day to let him know that she, too, would be joining the calls for his resignation.

Scandal
The developments occurred one day after Weiner acknowledged he had exchanged online messages with a 17-year-old girl in the state of Delaware. He said nothing improper had passed between the two of them.

Nor was there even an allegation that Weiner had a physical relationship with any of the women with whom he maintained virtual relationships. That made his case a departure from the norm, a sex scandal without sex, a phenomenon of the age of Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Democrats said the concerted call for Weiner's resignation had been brewing for days, as senior party officials concluded the scandal was interfering with their attempts to gain political momentum in advance of the 2012 elections. Democrats hope to rebound from a devastating election defeat last November in which the Republicans gained control of the House.

"We had decided we were not going to have one more week of Anthony Weinergate," said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

This official added that Pelosi and Israel had spoken numerous times in the past several days with Weiner, hoping to persuade him to step down for the good of the party, telling him that because of the media focus on his predicament, their attacks on a Republican Medicare proposal were largely unnoticed. The Republicans have proposed major cuts in the government-run Medicare program providing health care coverage to the elderly.

Publicly, Pelosi, Wasserman Schultz and others had been notably reticent in the days since Weiner held a news conference on Monday to announce he had exchanged lewd photos, and more, with a handful of women.

On Thursday, an X-rated photo surfaced on a website, and in response, Weiner's office issued a statement that did not deny it had been taken of him.

Leave of absence
The Democratic National Committee was so eager to downplay the controversy that earlier in the week, spokesman Brad Woodhouse referred calls to Wasserman Schultz's House office, saying Weiner's predicament was a congressional matter.

Her statement demanding a resignation, five days later, was issued by the DNC.

The White House declined comment on the matter, and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the state's dominant Democrat, maintained a public silence after an initial statement issued on Monday.

Video: Top Democrats call for Weiner to resign (on this page)

The statement by Weiner's aide did not specify how long a leave of absence the congressman would seek. According to one Democratic aide, leaves are granted automatically once a lawmaker requests one, and no vote or other type of acquiescence by the House is required. It is not known whether any other lawmakers are currently on leave.

Until disclosing he was seeking treatment, Weiner had given no indication he was considering anything other than returning to the Capitol on Monday when the House returns from a week-long break — raising the prospect of a circus-like atmosphere when the news media attempted to track his whereabouts.

He ran some personal errands near his home in the New York City borough of Queens during the morning, and said he was looking forward to getting back to work quickly.

"I've made some mistakes. I've acknowledged it. I'm trying to make it up to my wife and my family," he said. "I'm working hard to get back to normal."

'A remarkable woman'
As he walked to a neighborhood dry cleaner with a load of shirts over one arm he wore an anguished look on his face, but fielded questions politely and paused several times to accept well wishes from neighbors and constituents.

Asked how his wife was taking the scandal, Weiner said, "She's doing well. She's a remarkable woman."

Weiner is married to Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Abedin, who is pregnant with the couple's first child, is traveling with Clinton in Africa until the middle of next week.

She was not in attendance on Monday when Weiner held his news conference, choosing to avoid the stand-by-your-man-moment that has become standard in other sex scandals in recent years.

Before Saturday's developments, at least nine Democratic House members and three senators said Weiner should resign.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Top Democrats call for Weiner to resign

Photos: Sex scandals and elected officials

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  1. David Wu

    Oregon Democratic Congressman David Wu speaks after a luncheon in Hillsboro, Ore, March, 7, 2011. Wu announced his resignation on July 24, 2011, amid political fallout from an 18-year-old woman's allegations she had an unwanted sexual encounter with him. The seven-term congressman was the subject of news stories of unusual behavior earlier in the year and several of his staff had resigned. (Don Ryan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Anthony Weiner

    Rep. Anthony Weiner speaks during a press conference at a hotel in New York on June 6, 2011, where he admitted that he had communicated with women online before and after his marriage and sent them explicit photos. (Andrew Gombert / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Arnold Schwarzenegger

    Following the announcement of the couple's separation in 2011, Schwarzenegger said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that he fathered a child with a member of his household staff. In the photo, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver greet supporters before he is sworn in for second term on January 5, 2007 in Sacramento, Calif. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Chris Lee

    Left: House Speaker John Boehner, left, shakes hands with Rep. Chris Lee, alongside members of Lee's family during a mock swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill on Jan. 5, 2011. His wife, Michele, holds the bible and his son Johnathan, leans against his dad. Lee abruptly resigned his seat on Feb. 9, after a gossip web site, Gawker, reported that Lee had sent a shirtless photo of himself to a woman he met on Craigslist (right). Gawker.com printed a series of e-mails which the lawmaker apparently had exchanged with the woman, who asked not to be identified. (AP, Gawker) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Mark Sanford

    After going AWOL for seven days, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admitted on June 24, 2009 that he'd secretly flown to Argentina to visit a woman with whom he'd been having an affair. The married politician, who’s also a father of four, said he’d known the woman for eight years. "What I did was wrong. Period," he said. (Davis Turner / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. John Ensign

    On June 16, 2009, Sen. John Ensign announced that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer who was then employed as one of his top aides. The senator said he disclosed the relationship after an attorney for the woman’s husband made "exorbitant demands for cash and other financial benefits." (Isaac Brekken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. John Edwards

    In this image taken from video and released by ABC News, Bob Woodruff interviews John Edwards Friday, Aug. 8, 2008 in Chapel Hill, N.C. The former North Carolina senator, who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004, confessed to ABC News that he had lied repeatedly about the affair with 42-year-old Rielle Hunter.

    At the time, he denied fathering a baby with Hunter, but on Jan. 21, 2009, he released a statement exclusively to NBC News admitting that was was indeed the father of Francis Quinn Hunter. (ABC News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Eliot Spitzer

    New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, addresses reporters with his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, at his office in New York, apologizing for a "private matter" but making no reference to a March 10, 2008, New York Times report linking him to a prostitution ring. Spitzer resigned later that week. (Shannon Stapleton / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Larry Craig

    Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after being arrested in June 2007 in a Minneapolis airport restroom. The undercover officer who arrested him said Craig tapped his feet and swiped his hand under a stall divider in a way that signaled he wanted sex. Craig appealed, arguing that the law is invalid. He insisted that his actions were misconstrued and that he is not gay. He said he pleaded guilty in hopes of resolving the matter quietly (Troy Maben / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. David Vitter

    Sen. David Vitter, R-La., acknowledged in July 2007 that his Washington phone number was among those called several years before by an escort service. The admission came after Hustler magazine told the senator that his telephone number was linked to the service. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Antonio Villaraigosa

    Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, walks with Mirthala Salinas, then a reporter for Telemundo 52, on the north steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento in June 2006. Villaraigosa later acknowledged he was involved in a romantic relationship with Salinas. (Robert Durell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Mark Foley

    Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., abruptly resigned in September 2006 after reports that he sent sexual messages to teenage male congressional pages. The Foley scandal helped Democrats gain control of the House of Representatives in the November 2006 elections. (Lawrence Jackson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. James McGreevey

    Dina Matos McGreevey stands next to her husband, Gov. James McGreevey, a Democrat, as he announces his resignation during a 2004 news conference in Trenton, N.J. McGreevey admitted he is homosexual and had an extramarital affair with another man, Golan Cipel, pictured right. McGreevey later wrote a book, "The Confession," about his life; Dina Matos McGreevey also later wrote a book, "Silent Partner," about their marriage. (AP photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Jack Ryan

    Jack Ryan, a Republican, dropped out of the 2004 Senate race in Illinois when his wife, TV actress Jeri Lynn Ryan, filed divorce papers that alleged he had taken her to "bizarre clubs" and asked her to have sex in front of other people. Ryan denied that but acknowledged they went to one avant-garde club in Paris where they both felt creepy. Ryan's Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, easily won the Illinois seat. (Stephen J. Carrera / ASSOCIATED PRESS) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Bob Livingston

    Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., was on the verge of becoming House speaker in 1998 when he acknowledged straying in his marriage. He resigned from Congress a couple of months later. (Khue Bui / AP file) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Bill Clinton

    President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, gave evasive and misleading testimony under oath and publicly denied having sexual relations with former intern Monica Lewinsky, only to be forced into a humiliating reversal. He was impeached by the House and then acquitted in a 1999 Senate trial. (APTV file) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Bob Packwood

    Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., resigned in 1995 amid allegations he made unwanted sexual advances to 17 female employees and colleagues, solicited jobs from lobbyists for his former wife, and altered his personal diaries to obstruct an ethics investigation. (Nathaniel Harari / Congressional Quarterly/Getty Im) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Barney Frank

    Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., was reprimanded by the House in 1989 for using his influence on behalf of male prostitute Stephen Gobie. Frank admitted paying Gobie for sex, hiring him with his own money as an aide and writing a letter on his behalf. Frank faced constituents at a meeting until they ran out of questions, acknowledging, "I did not handle the pressures of having a public life, of being a closeted gay man, nearly as well as I should have." He has won re-election ever since. (Terry Ashe / Time Life Pictures - Getty Image) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Gary Hart

    Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., was a front-runner for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination when The Miami Herald reported he'd spent a night and a day with a young woman while his wife was away. Hart, who had challenged the press to check on rumors of philandering, initially denounced the report. But his liaison with Donna Rice, who had been photographed sitting on his lap near a yacht named "Monkey Business," sank his campaign. (Steve Liss / Time Life Pictures via Getty Ima) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Dan Crane

    Rep. Dan Crane, R-Ill., left, cries as he talks to reporters in 1983. Crane said he was sorry he hurt his family by having an affair with a 17-year-old congressional page. Rep. Gerry Studds, D-Mass., right, speaks to reporters on the steps of the Capitol. The House ethics committee cited Studds and Crane for misconduct for sexual activity with teen pages. (AP file photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Wilbur D. Mills

    Rep. Wilbur D. Mills, D-Ark., stands with Fanne Foxe, an exotic dancer. Mills sparked controversy in 1974 when police in Washington stopped his car for not having its headlights on. Although Mills was not driving, he was drunk, and Foxe jumped out of the car and into the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial. The episode caused Mills' downfall. (AP file) Back to slideshow navigation
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