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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

At a wild news conference today in Midtown Manhattan, Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner tearfully confessed to sending provocative pictures of himself over the Internet.

Representative ANTHONY WEINER (Democrat, New York): To be clear, the picture was of me, and I sent it. I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife, Huma, and our family and my constituents, my friends, supporters and staff.

BLOCK: Weiner also admitted to carrying on inappropriate Internet conversations with at least half a dozen women, including some in recent months. While the congressman did apologize, calling his actions dumb and destructive, he did not resign, and he said he and his wife would stay together.

Well, among the scrum of reporters at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan today was NPR's Robert Smith, who joins me now. And Robert, give us a sense of what it was like there when Congressman Weiner appeared and spoke for, gosh, almost 30 minutes.

ROBERT SMITH: Yeah, I mean, you have to understand that all day long, these more explicit photos have been leaking out on the Internet through this conservative website, Big Government, run by Andrew Breitbart. So everyone arrives not knowing whether Congressman Weiner is going to resign or not.

And who shows up at the podium but Andrew Breitbart, the guy who sort of started this scandal and released the photos. And Andrew Breitbart says: I have X-rated photos. I've got worse photos and threaten to release those if Anthony Weiner started to fight with him.

So you have this bizarre scene of the man who released the photos making this threat, and then a few minutes later, Congressman Weiner comes to the podium, chokes up almost immediately and says that, you know, he is deeply ashamed, he's mortified, but he's not resigning.

BLOCK: And Robert, let's go back a bit. This story first began about 10 days ago, or at least the news of it began about 10 days ago. There were first reports of him sending an improper picture over the Internet, then taking it down, and he was vague about whether the picture was him. He was dismissive in a number of interviews.

SMITH: Yeah, he wasn't vague. He lied. You know, he said that his system was hacked, that he didn't send the photo, and he said today - he basically admitted he lied. He sent the photo. He meant to send it directly to this young woman, this college student, and he made a mistake and ended up sending it everywhere.

He meant it as a joke, he said, but he just said that the lie compounded, made things worse and worse. And so he came clean. He said that he's done basically phone sex, he has flirted on Facebook, on Twitter, on email, six women, we already said, some before he was married, some after he was married.

And these relationships, these online relationships, date back about three years.

BLOCK: Yeah, let's listen to a little bit more of what the congressman had to say, referring to these other relationships he had on the Internet.

Rep. WEINER: I have exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years. For the most part, these relations, these communications took place before my marriage, though some have sadly took place after. To be clear, I have never met any of these women or had physical relationships at any time.

BLOCK: And Robert, this news conference did go on and on. And while Congressman Weiner did, you know, call his actions hurtful and destructive, he did say he feels he can do the people's business: He can fill potholes. He doesn't see the need to resign.

SMITH: Well, you have to realize this went on so long because there are big, unanswered questions like why. Like, after Congressman Christopher Lee resigned for a shirtless photo, after Eliot Spitzer, after all of these scandals, why would a congressman do this? And he didn't really have an explanation. He said there's no deep explanation. You know, he just did a very dumb thing.

And the other question everyone wanted to ask was: Did you use government resources? And he said he didn't use a government BlackBerry, he used his home computer. But he wasn't entirely sure whether he had used the phone or not in this.

And then the third question that's really hanging out there is: Were any of these women - he had never met these women. He didn't have affairs with them. He just flirted with them online and sent them photos. Were any of these women underage? And he said: To the best of my knowledge, they were all adults.

But, you know, you don't want to hear that from your congressman: to the best of my knowledge, they were all adults.

BLOCK: OK, Robert, thanks very much.

SMITH: You're welcome.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Robert Smith, again on the news today that Congressman Anthony Weiner has admitted to inappropriate relationships online, but again, that he says he's going to go back to work. He will not resign from Congress.

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