Thursday, February 10, 2011

Too sexy for his seat: Rep. Chris Lee resigns over Craigslist scandal


I'm not sure this story needs all that much commentary. It's just so juicy as is:

Rep. Christopher Lee, R-N.Y., abruptly resigned from the House of Representatives Wednesday afternoon after a report emerged that he had sent flirtatious e-mails, including one with a bare-chested photo of himself, to a woman he met on Craigslist.

Lee is married and has a young child.

"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 Wednesday evening.

"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."

On Wednesday, the gossip website Gawker posted a story that included the e-mails allegedly exchanged between Lee and the unnamed woman. According to the story, a single 34-year-old woman from Maryland posted an ad on Craigslist's "Women for Men" section on Jan. 14. Soon afterwards a man named Christopher Lee replied, identifying himself as a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist.

In the exchange that followed, Lee reportedly sent the woman an e-mail including a photo of Lee with his shirt off, flexing his arms and chest. The woman later broke off her correspondence with Lee after she did an online search for him and determined that he had lied about his age and his job, the Gawker story reported. 

Well, you know what? There are any number of snarky comments that I could make, but why? A lot of people keep things hidden, and of course no one's perfect, and actually this story, while great fodder for a site like Gawker, is quite sad. How does his wife feel? What about their marriage? Was he unhappy or just horny, or both? Can he put his life back together?

To his credit, he immediately took responsibility for his actions, apologizing and stepping down (which may be more than should be expected of him -- how many in Congress have done, and/or are doing, far worse?). We don't know the details beyond the Gawker story, we don't know what he was thinking/feeling, and we don't know anything about his relationship with his wife, nor what is now going on behind closed doors. There is a temptation to play up a scandal like this, to wallow in the muck, to tsk-tsk and express our supposed moral superiority. Personally, I think we should just leave him alone.

Yes, this is yet another Republican "sex" scandal, as Steve Benen notes, and Republicans, unlike Democrats, usually get away with it. But to me -- and, again, we don't know the details -- this is different than what, say, Mark Sanford did (use of government resources, repeated lying), or what David Vitter did (adultery with prostitutes), or what Larry Craig did (seeking gay sex in an airport washroom and denying it while being rigidly anti-gay). And he's not denying it, he's admitting it and taking responsibility for himself. There's something to be said for that, is there not?

So let's see. For now, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and to take his apology as sincere and his commitment to seek forgiveness as genuine.


Here's Gawker's salacious image:

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  • I agree this is just sad. Clearly there are issues in this man's personal life that would lead him to do something like this. And clearly his judgment is off if he's sending half-naked pictures of himself to someone he met online. It's more pathetic and pitiable than scandalous, and I feel sorry for this man and his family.

    I respect his decision to step down before it became a scandal. Unlike Vitter, Lee has done nothing illegal, but he still stepped down.

    Sad, as you said, Michael. On a lighter note, I hope I'm in such good shape when I'm 46. That's impressive.

    By Blogger M, at 10:14 AM  

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