A US congressman long ridiculed for sharing the same name as a slang word for penis tearfully admitted to sending pictures of his privates to young female fans online.
Anthony Weiner - whose surname is pronounced the same as sausages used in hotdogs that are synonymous with the male sexual organ - called a nationally televised press conference to admit he had been in a string of lewd online relationships.
Pressure had been building on the Democrat from New York after a close-up picture of an aroused male member in underpants reached a woman in Seattle via his Twitter account. For a week he hotly denied sending the picture and claimed to have been hacked.
Wiping away tears on Monday, local time, Weiner admitted: "The picture was of me and I sent it. I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused."
He said he had been sending naughty pictures online and sexting with about six women over the years and "we had become friends." But he said he had not met any of them and had not had a physical relationship outside of his year-old marriage.
Weiner, a seven-term congressman who until now was seen as a leading candidate to take over as New York mayor in 2013, said he does not intend to resign his seat in the US House of Representatives.
"I don't know what I was thinking. This was a destructive thing to do," he said. But "I am not resigning. I have made it clear that I accept responsibility for this."
However, signalling his problems are not yet over, leading Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, said an ethics investigation should be opened.
"I am deeply disappointed and saddened about this situation; for Anthony's wife, Huma, his family, his staff and his constituents," Pelosi said in a statement.
"I am calling for an Ethics Committee investigation to determine whether any official resources were used or any other violation of House rules occurred."
With his stunning admission, Weiner becomes the third New York politician in recent times to get in trouble over kinky sex habits.
The state's governor, Eliot Spitzer, resigned in 2008 after being caught visiting expensive prostitutes, while earlier this year another married congressman, Chris Lee, stepped down over his attempt to arrange sex online.
The clean-cut, fast-talking Weiner has long been tabloid fodder thanks to his name. But the underpants crisis put him in a career-threatening twist.
In his groveling mea culpa, he said he'd encountered the women mostly via the social networking site Facebook and had not broken any laws. But once the underpants shot was exposed he "panicked" and lied, pretending to have been hacked.
"I was trying to protect my wife. I was trying to protect myself from shame. It was a mistake and I really regret it."
One reason why Weiner finally decided to bare all to the press could be the growing body of evidence that he - not some prankster impersonating him - was the man in the underpants.
BigGovernment.com, a conservative website, posted new pictures that clearly show Weiner's face and naked torso.
Also, ABC News ran an interview Monday with Meagan Broussard, a 26-year-old single mother from Texas who says she has been in a sexting relationship with Weiner since April.
Without ever meeting, they exchanged graphic photos and flirtatious conversations, she said. The congressman also sent pictures of himself clothed, with his face visible.
- AFPBy Sebastian Smith