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Tilting at Windmills

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February 9, 2011

THE LATEST IN A LONG LINE OF REPUBLICAN SEX SCANDALS.... A couple of years ago, Republican Rep. Christopher Lee of New York, wrote a piece warning constituents about Internet safety. "[R]esponding to what may seem like a friendly e-mail or an appealing marketing offer can have serious consequences," he said. "Private information and images can so easily be transmitted to friends and strangers alike."

The conservative lawmaker really should have taken his own cautionary words more seriously.

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.)

It got worse when the congressman sent a topless photo of himself, but before the story could spiral further, the woman Lee was apparently pursuing cut off communication -- she realized he was lying about his age and occupation.

For his part, Lee has a defense. The married conservative claims his email account was hacked, and his office has a Jan. 21 email from the congressman to his staff, noting the security breach.

That might be more compelling if the emails in question hadn't been sent a week before the hack. For that matter, it wouldn't explain how the hacker managed to obtain a topless photo of the congressman, apparently taken by the congressman himself, or why the hacker might try to use the account to pick up a woman through Craigslist.

This seems like the kind of story that could have some legs. After all, there's that photo, and it's not every day married conservative congressman lie on Craigslist while trying to con unsuspecting women.

There are, however, two related angles to consider. The first is that this is yet another test for the GOP caucus' "zero tolerance" policy. Remember, before the midterm elections, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) vowed that Republicans would "institute a zero-tolerance policy" when it comes to lawmakers and ethical transgressions once there was a GOP majority. The party has apparently decided this doesn't apply to Rep. David Rivera's (R-Fla.) criminal scandals. Will it apply to Christopher Lee? If not, why not?

The second is that, if history is any guide, Lee should be able to overcome this because sex scandals just don't hurt Republicans the way they hurt Democrats. Consider the recent evidence -- Ensign (adultery), Sanford (adultery), Vitter (prostitutes and adultery), Craig (gay adultery), Gibbons (adultery), Giuliani and Gingrich (a lot of adultery) all had sex scandals during their tenure in public service. Not one resigned in the wake of the revelations.

Among Democrats, we have Spitzer (prostitutes and adultery), John Edwards (adultery), Massa (sexual harassment), and McGreevey (gay adultery), all of whom either resigned or are persona non grata in Dem circles.

Given the double standard, Lee probably likes his odds.

Steve Benen 4:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Are we entirely sure that it's not "every day married conservative congressman try lie on Craigslist while trying to con unsuspecting women." I mean, really? That seems like an overly optimistic assumption.

Posted by: Shantyhag on February 9, 2011 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

So -- has Fox identified him as "D-NY" yet, and if not, shall we start a pool to make it interesting on how long it takes them to do so? I'll put 6 donuts on "within the next hour."

Posted by: T-Rex on February 9, 2011 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Oh my god, that photo is hilarious.

There's a second part of this story that hasn't broken yet. Why did he report a "hacking" a week after sending this photo to this woman? What scare did he get that made him pull a lame attempt at a CYA--in other words, what other women have interesting stories to tell about Lee?

Posted by: shortstop on February 9, 2011 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

He certainly failed in the challenge to prove that all CL men are not toads.

Posted by: thebewilderness on February 9, 2011 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder what kind of woman Mrs. Lee is. Men don't wander unless they're not getting what they need at home.

I explained this to each of my three ex-wives, but they were too busy screaming like harpies to listen.

Posted by: Mlke K on February 9, 2011 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

many times the tongue-in-cheek posts just don't work.
today's was just enuf over the top to be funny:

As we republicans are the party of lower taxes and smaller government and are the pro-choice party, a solution that will address all of these would be to:

- require all pregnant women to wear GPS monitoring devices
- monitored by the National Right To Life Committee
- with mandatory jail terms for any pregnant woman coming within 1/4 mile of a Planned Parenthood Abortion Clinic
- funded by user fees (not taxes) charged to all men who are non-white or who do not use the missionary position

I am proud of our current group of Republican Political Leaders who have been very creative in their efforts to provide meaningless lip-service to the Social Conservatives.
Posted by: RepublicanPointOfVIew on February 9, 2011

Posted by: SteveADor on February 9, 2011 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K, FTW!

Posted by: square1 on February 9, 2011 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Men cheating on women is hardly a partisan activity.

Posted by: JEA on February 9, 2011 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, but; "do as i say, not do as i do" seems to work well for Republicans.

Posted by: DAY on February 9, 2011 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Chris Lee on Friday:

"Hi, I'm Chris Lee, a 39 year old fit fun classy guy and divorced lobbyist. Take a look at my hunky photo."

Chris Lee on Sunday:

"I learned from my dear friend Eddie Long that fornication and adultry are sins against my lord and savior Jeeeezusss! He also taught me how to take photos in the mirror"

Posted by: Winkandanod on February 9, 2011 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Will it apply to Christopher Lee? If not, why not?

C'mon everyone repeat after me.. I. O. K. I. Y. A. R.

Men cheating on women is hardly a partisan activity.
Absolutely true. But the rampant hypocritical family values-based frothing attacks by social conservatives most certainly is partisan.

Oh my god, that photo is hilarious.

He seems to be clenching...
"Und ve just vant to pump... (clap) ...YOU UP!"

Posted by: ckelly on February 9, 2011 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

1. He'll end up blaming it on a "staffer".
2. Somehow, Palin will claim to be the victim in this.
And JEA, true, men cheating on women is hardly a partisan activity. The point is that being held accountable is. See #3 above.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on February 9, 2011 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

women are always the sluts/whores but conservative men are just mindless wayward children that got led around by their peters.

Posted by: Silver Owl on February 9, 2011 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Lee will probably write some legislation in the future that all women on craigslist post pictures in burkas so as not to entice men.

Posted by: Kill Bill on February 9, 2011 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Not say this is not interesting... The photo is not risque enough for my taste. Unless I see .... Let's just say he looks too inhibited for my taste..

That said... Please remember the question of what will happen if the Federal Government decides that Arizona's Governor Jan Brewer cannot choose to cut 280,000 impoverished citizens from Medicaid rolls to balance the state budget. Suppose she decides to ignore that ruling and eliminates their insurance. What happens next after lawsuit after lawsuit fails to fix the situation and 280,000 people lose their health care while the courts cases drag on?

These are questions which cannot be ignored. I have every confidence Jan Brewer and the reckless Republicans are planning on making this a test case for their corporate and anti-federalist friends. (Yes, I wrote "anti-federalist" who would have thought that 200 years later the question would still be debatable.)

I know I have not listed any type of action to deal with this. (Supporting the recall of Az Senate President Russell Pearce could not hurt though and might send a message.) When I think of something I will add it. Please do not forget this though.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on February 9, 2011 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think the double standard applies because people except Repubs to be lying hypocritical scumbags.

Posted by: merl on February 9, 2011 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how many of those 280k on medicaid in AZ are tea party supporters.

Posted by: Kill Bill on February 9, 2011 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, please - this is way below the level of your blog - Why?

Posted by: Mimi on February 9, 2011 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

You may want to update... Lee just resigned.


Posted by: chi res on February 9, 2011 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

I stand corrected. One of them has held himself accountable. He's still a d-bag, but at least he's not in Congress.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on February 9, 2011 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Mark Foley should be on the list. I know he did get in trouble. But the leaders in the Republican caucus hid his crime for a long time before allegations against Foley were leaked.

Posted by: Ed on February 9, 2011 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

It is becoming more and more obvious that the manic Republican drive to control women's uteruses, AND to give a bit of latitude to men to allow them to rape women with virtual impunity, stems from the inability of the Republican male in general to engage in sexual liaisons where lying, power, money or coercion are not the determining factors.

Posted by: jjm on February 9, 2011 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK


Comment from CA_GUY re Lee's resignation with that article: "Yeah, the Republican leadership pushed him out quick so the scandal wouldn't distract from all the fine work they've done this year."

"fine work" ::snort:: too good...

Others wondered if there wasn't more to this than has been reported. Guess we'll find out.

Posted by: Hmmmmm on February 9, 2011 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Have we heard any more about Boehner's affairs?

Posted by: j on February 9, 2011 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

And now - the man who had an affair with Nicki Haley SC is going to publish a book about their torrid affair (that would be the one she denied)
wasn't she going to retire if she had the affair!

Posted by: joan on February 9, 2011 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, he seems to be one of the better GOP reps. He resigned and acknowledged he was wrong. There is no place in the GOP for personal responsibility and actual contrition. He could still come back and lobby with Newt though.

Posted by: Sparko on February 9, 2011 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

This argument is constrained.

Larry Craig appears as evidence that “sex scandals just don't hurt Republicans” presumably because he did not resign. Yet he lost republican support, decided not to run again, and his political career was over. John Edwards is then somehow offered as evidence of the double standard, even though it’s unclear how he was punished more than Craig. Presumably, the “fact” that he’s persona non grata among dems suffices, as if Craig is seen every night sipping margaritas with Boenher.

Governor Patterson rode out his term and appears in good standing despite behavior far more serious than adultery, given the power differential between him and the young woman involved. Ditto for Al Gore since he was accused of sexual assault. Somehow Bill Clinton goes unmentioned as does Barney Frank’s prostitution scandal and Gary Condit, who was not punished by the dem leadership. Between Clinton, Gore, Patterson, and Massa there appears to be a pattern of women accusing dems of sexual harassment and assault. But someohow this distinction is not made on a progressive blog.

But hilariously, the very republican in question today actually ends up resigning, further problematizing this already far-fetched meme. Now that’s Poetic Justice.

Posted by: Manju on February 9, 2011 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

Sex scandals in politics are nearly always idiotically lame in some way that can be so stupid the stupid feels like a brain tumor.

Posted by: cld on February 10, 2011 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

Manju has a point about Craig and Edwards -- the very same comparison occurred to me. However, the rest of his/her comment is, of course, nonsense. If we wish to go back to the Clinton era, we'll need to talk about Henry Hyde, Helen Chenoweth, Bob Livingston (who did resign) and Bob Packwood...am certain I've missed a few, but that's about all I've got time to come up with on the fly.

The fact is that there is a trend here: during recent scandals, Dems have been quick to resign while Republicans have not, Lee's correct choice notwithstanding. That in itself isn't remarkable. The fact that the non-resigners belong to the party screaming about family values and poking into everyone else's sex lives is.

And the fact that several of the Republicans mentioned above (plus Newt Gingrich and Mark Sanford) got caught with their pants down despite -- and sometimes while in the very act of -- publicly chastising Clinton for the same is even more astounding in the chutzpah it reflects. Democrats are no less likely to philander than Republicans. But they are exponentially less likely to do it while carrying on about sexual morality in public statements and votes. In fact, I can't think of a circumstance in which that's happened. Can you, Manju?

Posted by: shortstop on February 10, 2011 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

you left Bill Clinton off the list!

Posted by: njdem on February 10, 2011 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK


Lets look at the names listed. Craig is canceled out by Edwards, as you concede. Massa and McGeevey were both accused of sexual harassment, a much more serious scandal by progressive’s own standards. Since you can’t compare the sentence doled out to mugger to that of a jaywalker, the data Benen uses to demonstrate his double standard has not been controlled properly for relevant variables.

Furthermore, Benen ignores Gary Condit and Gov Patterson, 2 dems who did not resign. He also ignores repub alleged-adulterer Mark Souder who did. And now there’s Lee.

The best comparison would be Vitter vs Spitzer, but that’s only one datapoint and Spitzer was a very aggressive prosecutor who went after Johns. So he managed to out-do repubs on the hypocrisy front.

Now that contradicts your claim that dems don’t have sex scandals “while carrying on about sexual morality in public statements and votes. In fact, I can't think of a circumstance in which that's happened. Can you, Manju?”

Democrats have taken the lead on sexual harassment legislation and feminist themes such as believing the victim. The Clinton team attacked Kathleen Willey and others in terms long decried by feminists so its unclear why Clinton’s failure to resign is not hypocrisy, or at least the dems failure to call for the resignation was not. Ditto for Gov Patterson’s behavior. And Al Gore is still respected.

Clinton was accused of lying under oath and predatorial behavior toward a young intern along with a mix of sexual assault charges. Foley comes the closest to //ing that. And he resigned.

Posted by: Manju on February 10, 2011 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK



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