Congressman Chris Lee (R-NY), UR alumnus (‘87)and former manufacturing executive, resigned on Wednesday, Feb. 9 after a suggestive photograph of him surfaced online. It was allegedly provided by a person with whom he was conversing over the Internet service Craigslist. Lee represented New York’s 26th congressional district (which covers much of Western New York).
“I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents,” Lee stated on his personal website. “[I have made] profound mistakes.”
According to the woman who submitted the images, she had originally posted an ad on Craigslist asking, “Will someone prove to me that not all [Craigslist] men look like toads?”
In response, Lee, 46, sent her the first image, in which he was fully clothed, along with a description of himself as a “fit, fun, classy guy.”
He also identified himself as a 39-year-old lobbyist. As the conversation continued, Lee provided a second photograph of himself, in which he was shown partly undressed and flexing his arm in a mirror. When asked, Lee, who is married, told the woman he was divorced and had one child.
After receiving this information, the woman, identified as a 34-year-old government employee from Maryland, searched for Lee online and quickly found his official pages. Upon concluding Lee had lied about his age and occupation, she sent the correspondence to Gawker Media, who published it soon thereafter.
Lee’s spokesmen, when contacted by Gawker, confirmed that the e-mail address used in the Craigslist conversation was the representative’s own. The address in question is apparently linked to Lee’s personal Facebook page. Upon further questioning, Lee’s spokesman finally provided Gawker with an e-mail sent from Lee’s personal e-mail to his staff about a potential security breach in his e-mail account.
The e-mail was dated Friday, Jan. 21, a full week before the conversation during which he provided the suggestive image.
According to metadata associated with the photograph, it had been taken with a Blackberry — Lee’s mobile device of choice — in Washington D.C., meaning that putative interlopers would have had to access the photographs on the device.
Though spokesmen finally told Gawker that “the Congressman is happily married” and that “the only time he or his wife posted something online was to sell old furniture,” Lee abruptly resigned a few hours after the story first appeared online, barely over a month into his second term in the House of Representatives.
Under New York State law, the early date of Lee’s resignation automatically triggers a special election in the resigning representative’s district.
Republicans discussed as potential replacements for Lee include Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, former Representative Thomas M. Reynolds, who filled the same seat from 1999 to 2009, and 2010 New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.
Morales is a member of
the class of 2011.