Maureen O’Connor at Gawker:
Rep. Christopher Lee is a married Republican congressman serving the 26th District of New York. But when he trolls Craigslist’s “Women Seeking Men” forum, he’s Christopher Lee, “divorced” “lobbyist” and “fit fun classy guy.” One object of his flirtation told us her story.
On the morning of Friday, January 14, a single 34-year-old woman put an ad in the “Women for Men” section of Craigslist personals. “Will someone prove to me not all CL men look like toads?” she asked, inviting “financially & emotionally secure” men to reply.
That afternoon, a man named Christopher Lee replied. He used a Gmail account that Rep. Christopher Lee has since confirmed to be his own. (It’s the same Gmail account that was associated with Lee’s personal Facebook account, which the Congressman deleted when we started asking questions.)
By email, Lee identified himself as a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist and sent a PG picture to the woman from the ad. (In fact, Lee is married and has one son with his wife. He’s also 46.)
Not the best of days for Rep. Chris Lee, R-NY, a second-termer from a relatively safe seat. He did not sleep with a woman he sent a shirtless picture to, after seeing her Craigslist ad. He merely lied about his job, age, and marital status.
Garance Franke-Ruta at The Atlantic:
Married Rep. Chris Lee resigned Wednesday afternoon three hours after the publication of allegations in Gawker that he sent flirtatious photos — including one where he was naked from the waist up — to a Washington-area woman he contacted through the Craigslist personals section.
“It has been a tremendous honor to serve the people of Western New York. I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness,” Lee said in a statement.
“The challenges we face in Western New York and across the country are too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue, and so I am announcing that I have resigned my seat in Congress effective immediately.”
He earlier declined to comment on the story, telling Fox News Wednesday afternoon, “I have to work this out with my wife.”
Here’s Gawker’s post laying out the evidence, replete with shirtless pics and the obligatory nod at “hypocrisy” because Lee supports DADT and opposes federal funds for abortion and is therefore guilty of “publicly scrutinizing others’ sex lives.” If you’re wondering whether this means the seat will flip to the Democrats, probably not: His district has a Cook PVI of R+6 and has been represented by a Republican for all but 16 years dating back to … 1857.
Update: Why did Lee resign when more prominent Republicans, like Vitter, have survived infidelity scandals? Did he simply feel duty-bound? Or was it the fact that that photo of him with his shirt off is so goofy that it would follow him around forever if he hung on?
There must be a lot more below the surface, and the quick resignation was to get us to move on. I’d like to know what inspired the desperation. Or was it that he got no support from his GOP colleagues in Congress. Perhaps he was told, quite clearly, that they didn’t want to burn any political capital defending him. If so, I think that was probably an excellent choice. They can’t want him as the torso face of the party for the next month.
The developments were more than a little surprising, not only because of Lee’s spectacularly dumb actions, but also because he resigned so quickly — Republicans, especially those caught up in sex scandals, generally don’t step down.
Indeed, if we’re measuring controversies on the Scandal Richter Scale, Lee’s story doesn’t seem nearly as serious as some of his Republican colleagues. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) got caught with prostitutes, refused to resign, sought re-election, and won. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) carried on a lengthy extra-marital relationship with one of his aides, who happened to be married to another one of his aides. Ensign’s parents tried to pay off the mistress’ family, and the senator arranged lobbying work for his mistress’ husband. He refused to resign, and he’s running for another term, too. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) got caught seeking sex in an airport bathroom, and even he didn’t resign.
Lee’s story is certainly sleazy, but based solely on what we know so far, it pales in comparison to some of these other Republicans’ scandals.
So, why’d he resign while the others didn’t? It’s speculative, of course, but it’s possible there was far more dirt, and Lee quit to avoid further humiliation. Maybe Republican leaders who tolerated the previous controversies didn’t want any distractions, so they demanded Lee’s resignation.
Or maybe it’s just the simple fact that we live in an era when images have more of an impact than than anything else. Vitter, Ensign, and the like were at the center of ugly controversies, but there’s no single photograph to be aired over and over again, the way there is with Lee’s topless photo of himself.
Visuals, in other words, resonate.
As for the month-old 112th Congress, David Dayen had this eye-opening observation: “Number of House resignations this year: 2. Number of pieces of legislation signed into law: 0.”