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Thanks for Last Night!
(cc: The Entire World)

By T.R. Reid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, December 18, 2000


    Scandalous E-mails (Eric Telchin/washingtonpost.com) Word to the wise: private moments are not meant to be shared on e-mail.
(Eric Telchin/washingtonpost.com)
Claire and Brad had a passionate date the other night. The next morning she sent him a note thanking him for a great evening. Huge mistake.

As a thoroughly modern woman–she holds a PR job at a dot-com firm–Claire sent her racy note by e-mail, of course. Her boyfriend, now known to all the London tabloids as "Brad the Cad," couldn't resist forwarding the message to a few close mates. Naturally, they passed it along to others. Almost instantly, poor Claire became the Monica Lewinsky of the digital world, with her indiscreet remarks about her own sexual preferences forwarded around the world.

As of yesterday, barely a week after the date that started it all, Claire was in hiding, racing from house to house with the British media in hot pursuit. The 27-year-old Brad and four of his co-workers at the London law firm Norton Rose were waiting to find out if they will be fired for "e-mail abuse." And everybody else who has ever sent a personal message by e-mail has learned a scary lesson about the immense speed and power of this new medium.

Since both Claire and Brad used their full names in the e-mail addresses, it was easy for the media to identify the two principals of this riveting click-and-tell romance. The British papers have run photos of both, along with pictures of their London apartments and the suburban family home where Claire reportedly first fled when her message started bouncing around the bit stream. "She is horrified by all this," the 26-year-old's mother told reporters at the door.

Meanwhile, a Web site has been created just to follow the twists and turns of the case. Visitors are urged to vote on whether Brad should be allowed to keep his job. As of last night, the ballots were running 2 to 1 against him. The main reason people thought he should be fired was "abusing company resources"; the offense of "betraying Claire's trust" ran a poor second.

Norton Rose, the cad's law firm, announced that it held a disciplinary hearing Friday to determine how to deal with the incident. The firm said it has "clear rules that specifically prohibit the sending and receipt of non-work-related material; in particular obscene, discriminatory or defamatory material and junk mail."

Claire and Brad were already good friends when they went out together, according to media reports here. She had held a number of jobs in London's fast-growing dot-com world; he had recently started at his law firm, which specializes in work for London's financial industry. Both were graduates of respected private schools.

When Claire sent Brad that fateful e-mail, he was delighted at her praise of his sexual prowess. He appended a note of his own–"Now THAT'S a nice compliment from a lass, isn't it?"–and forwarded it to some friends. The message passed onward and onward to readers around the world, many of whom added their own commentary, tasteful or otherwise.

With London's legal community buzzing about the missive, the message quickly found its way into print. Since then, the embarrassing incident has sparked an angry round of criticism here, mainly from female commentators taking aim at "Brad the Cad."

"His need for explicit boasting marks him out as a bigmouth, a braggart, a faintly untrustworthy fool," wrote Jenny McCartney in the Sunday Telegraph. "What [Brad] did was the electronic equivalent of boasting in the pub . . . but a pub tale does not usually arrive with a written affidavit from the woman in question."

Have your e-mails gotten you in trouble at the office or with loved ones? If you've been in Claire or Brad's position, let us know. Visit the "E-mail Scandals" discussion folder.


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