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Rep. Chris Lee resigns after reports of Craigslist flirtation

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New York congressman Chris Lee resigned his seat Wednesday, saying he was quitting because he regretted actions that have hurt his family. Gawker.com reported that the married lawmaker sent a shirtless photo of himself to a woman he met on Craigslist. (Feb. 9)

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The Gawker report cited an account from a woman, whom the site did not name, who said she posted an ad last month on Craigslist's "women seeking men" forum. In the ad, she said she was looking for "financially & emotionally secure" men who don't "look like toads."

That same day, she allegedly received a response from a person who said his name was Christopher Lee, describing himself as a 39-year-old lobbyist, "a very fit fun classy guy. Live in Cap Hill area. 6ft 190lbs blond/blue."

In follow-up e-mails, the man allegedly attached photos - one of himself in a blue polo, the other shirtless. Both of the images bear a significant resemblance to Lee. In its posting, Gawker said the woman cut off the electronic conversation and contacted Gawker after she did an online search for Lee and "concluded he'd lied about his age and occupation."

Gawker said it had confirmed that the e-mail address used to send the messages belonged to Lee.

If the e-mails were sent by Lee, he created a scandal made for the Internet. The allegations were not conveyed in whispers or court affidavits, wrapped up in charges and countercharges. They were conveyed in a photograph of a man making a muscle in a mirror. Lee's problems spread as fast as it took to hit "Forward."

His office first responded, according to Gawker, by saying that the only things Lee had posted online had to do with selling old furniture, and suggesting that Lee's e-mail account had been hacked.

Then, later in the afternoon, a Fox News reporter caught Lee going to his car. "I have to work this out with my wife," he said.

Now, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) must call a special election to fill Lee's seat, which is expected to remain in Republican hands.

On Wednesday, the news moved so quickly that many people back in western New York heard about the resignation before they heard there was a scandal. It left Lee's constituents shocked and scrambling for choices to replace him.

"I think he's blossomed over the last two years," said Richard Yolevich (R), a county legislator in Monroe County. "He was a lot quieter at first. Now, he seems to know - or he seemed to know - what was going on."

"He's an absolute gentleman. I'm shocked. I'm disapppointed," Yolevich said in a phone interview. "My wife's sitting right here. We're both disappointed."

fahrenthold@washpost.com blakea@washpost.com

Staff writers Amy Argetsinger and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.


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