New York Republican Congressman Resigns Over E-Mails

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    February 9, 2011
    New York Congressman Resigns Over E-Mails

    WASHINGTON — Representative Christopher Lee of New York abruptly resigned on Wednesday night after a shirtless photo of himself, which he had e-mailed to a woman, was published on the Internet.

    Mr. Lee, a two-term Republican from western New York, notified the House speaker, John A. Boehner, of his decision in a letter on Wednesday afternoon, after the scandal had erupted, according to senior Congressional officials.

    Mr. Lee’s office released a statement in which he asked for forgiveness. “I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents,” he wrote. “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.”

    The resignation came hours after Gawker, a gossip Web site, published an e-mail exchange that Mr. Lee, who is married and has a son, had with a 34-year-old Maryland woman he had met through Craigslist.

    According to Gawker, Mr. Lee, who is 46, replied to a personal ad that the woman had placed in the “Women for Men” section of Craigslist, seeking a financially and emotionally secure man.

    “Will someone prove to me not all CL men look like toads?” the woman asked in the ad, using the initials for Craigslist.

    Mr. Lee responded to the ad using a Gmail account that Gawker said it had traced to Mr. Lee’s personal Facebook account.

    “Hi,” Mr. Lee wrote in the first e-mail. “Hope I’m not a toad.”

    “I’m a very fit fun classy guy,” he continued. “Live in Cap Hill area.” He described himself as a 39-year-old lobbyist. He said he was 6 feet tall, weighed 190 pounds, and had blond hair and blue eyes.

    “I promise not to disappoint,” he wrote.

    After the woman responded flirtatiously, Mr. Lee sent a shirtless photo of himself that he had taken using the camera on his cellphone.

    When the woman asked him if he made it a habit to send shirtless photos of himself to women, Mr. Lee responded in another e-mail: “Sorry. Its all I had.”

    Gawker said the woman, a government employee who asked not to be identified, eventually stopped contacting Mr. Lee after she searched for his name online and discovered that he was lying about his profession and his age. The woman then sent the e-mails to Gawker.

    Mr. Lee’s office did not return telephone calls seeking comment. But before Mr. Lee resigned, Gawker reported that a spokesman for him had responded that the congressman believed his computer had been hacked into.

    This is the second time in less than a year that a member of New York’s Congressional delegation has resigned amid personal scandal.

    In March, Representative Eric J. Massa, a freshman Democrat from New York, stepped down after the House ethics committee began an investigation into accusations that he had harassed a male aide.

    Initially, Mr. Massa, who represented the 29th Congressional District in upstate New York, cited a recurrence of cancer as the reason for his decision to step down. But he eventually acknowledged having an inappropriate exchange with the aide during another staff member’s wedding in January 2010 while the two were sitting at a table.

    Mr. Lee won his district in 2008, when he ran for the seat being vacated by Thomas Reynolds, an influential Republican who had announced his retirement.

    Mr. Lee ran a family manufacturing business, transforming it from a small machine shop in western New York to a global enterprise.

    His resignation opens a seat representing New York’s sprawling 26th Congressional District, a heavily Republican stretch of the state that runs from the western suburbs of Rochester to the northeastern suburbs of Buffalo.

    Under New York law, it falls to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to call a special election to find a successor for Mr. Lee.

    In Congress, Mr. Lee had a reputation as a social conservative, opposing, for example, a recent measure signed into law that allowed gays to serve openly in the military.