Celebrities from Rihanna to Vanessa Hudgens to Jamie Foxx have learned the hard way that if you’re a public figure and you take a photo of yourself sans clothing that is meant for private eyes, it’ll probably end up on the internet being gawked at over coffee breaks. Let politicians heed this warning, too. Yesterday, a Republican Congressman from New York, Christopher Lee, resigned over a shirtless cellphone photo that ended up on Gawker. Apparently, the Congressdude is fond of trolling Craigslist for women to date, even though he’s married. In mid-January, he responded to a CL ad with the headline, “Will someone prove to me not all CL men look like toads?” He sent the image above—which shows that, for politician, he sure works out a lot—and a message that read, “Hope I’m not a toad. : ) i’m a very fit fun classy guy.”Apparently, after exchanging a few more short emails, the woman Googled Lee and discovered that (a) he was a congressman and (b) was married when he’d claimed to be divorced. So she forwarded their correspondence on to Gawker. Soon after it went up, Lee posted on his website that he was stepping down from his position. “I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents,” he said. “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.”
Now, the photo Lee sent isn’t all that scandalous. Honestly, we’ve seen more revealing images of Barack Obama at the beach. Lee’s member is fully covered by high-waisted pants and his hands are in full view. To me, reading about this, what Lee did wrong was violate his wife’s trust and his wedding vows. And I also think wronged the woman he emailed with by breaking so many of the ground rules of online dating. For example:
- Thou shalt not lie about thy marital status. Lee said he was divorced when he isn’t.
- Thou shalt not lie about thy age. Lee told this woman he’s 39 when he’s actually 46.
- Thou shalt not half flex. If you’re going to do it, do it all the way.
- Thou shalt not use emoticons or cutesy abbreviations if over the age of 30. Lee’s messages contain smiley faces and LOLs. That’s just not very congressional.
- Thou shalt not repeat thy mistakes. Lee reveals in his email exchange that this isn’t his first time trying to score a date on Craigslist. He said his last date was, “last Monday. She was not as advertised. Lol.. how do people think you aren’t going to figure it out once you see them in person.”
- Thou shalt not try to cover your tracks. When Gawker first approached Lee with the email evidence of his Craigslist habit, his spokesperson claimed his email account must have been hacked. “The Congressman is happily married,” went the response. “The only time he or his wife posted something online was to sell old furniture when they changed the apartment they keep in DC.” Not!
I feel bad that Lee had to step down over what is obviously a personal issue more than a job performance one, but it’s a story we see played out on the political scene over and over. Will politicians ever learn? Let’s just hope that Lee has not started a trend here with the shirtless photo. If half-clothed images of Nancy Pelosi or Eric Cantor start surfacing, I am outta here.