Image: Sign
Andrew Burton  /  Reuters
A man holds a sign out of his car calling for Rep. Anthony Weiner to resign outside the congressman's residence in Queens, New York, on Sunday.
updated 6/13/2011 8:15:50 PM ET 2011-06-14T00:15:50

Rep. Anthony Weiner's behavior has been "inappropriate" and "a distraction," the White House said Monday as the House returned to work for the first time since eruption of the sexting scandal that has brought calls for the New York Democrat's resignation.

White House spokesman Jay Carney wouldn't say whether President Barack Obama believes Weiner should resign — as other Democratic leaders have said.

Weiner is on a temporary leave of absence, in treatment for an undisclosed disorder at an undisclosed location. He has acknowledged exchanging messages and photos that ranged from sexually suggestive to explicit, with several women online. The latest to surface appeared on the gossip website TMZ.

"The president feels, we feel in the White House, that this is a distraction, obviously," Carney said in response to questions from reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One to North Carolina. "As Congressman Weiner has said himself, his behavior was inappropriate, his dishonesty was inappropriate. But the president is focused on his job which is getting the economy continuing to grow, creating jobs, and obviously ensuring the safety and security of the American people."

Video: Weiner in rehab as new photos emerge (on this page)

Meanwhile, the No. 2 House Democrat spoke of Weiner's "bizarre and unacceptable behavior" in sending the inappropriate pictures of himself. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Sunday it would be "extraordinarily difficult" for Weiner to be effective in Congress.

And the Republican Party chairman criticized Democratic leaders for not taking a more forceful stand earlier on the affair.

The photos posted Sunday were purportedly taken in the House members' gym and show a shirtless Weiner with a towel around his waist and his hand on his crotch. TMZ said the photos were sent online to at least one woman.

House aides: No leave notice received yet from Weiner

Weiner announced Saturday that he was entering unspecified professional and wanted a leave of absence from Congress.

That announcement came right after House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the national party head, said Weiner must go.

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According to NBC News, Pelosi received a formal request for a leave of absence Monday evening from Weiner. She told reporters Monday night that the decision to resign was up to Weiner himself.

"None of us, not anybody here, has the power to force somebody out of office," she said. "That person has to decide himself as to whether he will stay or they will go. I hope that the President having spoken and some leaders in Congress speaking out that Congressman Weiner will hear this, know that it's in his best interest for him to leave Congress."

Weiner said at a news conference last Monday that he had lied, previously saying that he had not sent any photos. Pelosi immediately called for an ethics committee investigation. But it was not until the weekend that leaders said he should step down.

Hoyer said the ethics committee process to decide whether Weiner had committed an expellable offense would take time and "I really don't know if we have that time." He said he didn't see how Weiner could stay in office.

Video: Schultz: Weiner’s actions ‘indefensible’ (on this page)

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Weiner should resign. "We've got important work to do and this is a ridiculous distraction," he said in an appearance with Hoyer on "Face the Nation" on CBS.

Lawmakers marching Sunday in New York's Puerto Rican Day parade were less demanding. "I think it could have been handled better," Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said when asked whether he stood with Pelosi in calling for Weiner's resignation.

Rangel, who was censured by the House last year for ethics violations, was also asked if he thought it was a good idea for Weiner to take time off to enter treatment.

"He is the one that knows the best, he and his wife," Rangel responded.

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

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., declined to comment any further, saying, "Those of us who have been longtime friends of Anthony are heartbroken, and I'm just going to try to enjoy the parade today."

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday criticized Pelosi and other Democrats for not acting sooner. "It seemed to me that for the first 10 days in this circus ... the only job that Nancy Pelosi was interested in saving was Anthony Weiner's," he said.

That drew a sharp retort from Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who accused Republicans of a double standard.

She said that Republican leaders didn't call for the resignation of Sen. David Vitter, R-La., when he got caught up in a prostitution scandal, and that Priebus had not publicly sought the resignation of former Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who stepped down this year over an affair with a staffer's wife.

Wasserman Schultz said party officials initially gave Weiner "some breathing room" to reach the conclusion that he needed to step down on his own, but decided to toughen their stance Saturday after it became apparent he would not do so.

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

Video: Weiner in rehab as new photos emerge

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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