Congressperson Chris Lee’s Resignation – Let’s Pause Before We Heap On

Posted on February 9th, 2011 by Katherine Franke

Many progressives are enjoying a schadenfreude moment connected with tonite’s resignation of Congressperson Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) who got caught flirting through e-mail with a woman on Craigslist’s “women seeking men” list.  Congressman Lee, who stupidly used his real e-mail address in this venture, mis-represented in his marital status (he said he was divorced but in fact he is married), age (he said he was 39 when in fact he is 46) and profession (he said he was a lobbyist when in fact he is a member of Congress).  He even sent the woman a pretty studly picture of himself.

Lee, a conservative Congressman from Western New York, supported Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, opposed it’s repeal, voted against the expansion of hate crimes law to include sexual orientation-based bias crimes, is anti-abortion, opposed the Obama Administration’s efforts at health care reform etc, etc, etc.

He ran for office urging change and the restoration of family values, and that he wanted to serve in Congress because of his son and “to give our children a secure future”:


Ok, so don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out.   Sure, for those of us who care about equality, economic justice, basic fairness, and most importantly, decry duplicitousness, it’s great to get this fella out of Congress.  You kind of wonder what other shoes are about to fall given how quickly he resigned from Congress after news of the Craigslist “thing.”

But, and this is a big butt, do we – and by we I mean people who otherwise think critically about sex and sexuality – really want to indict a guy who was just being playful about sex online?  Sure the guy should get a huge amount of grief for being all high and mighty in his public life, and violating those very values in his private life (remember Mr. Spitzer?).  But all he did was flirt in e-mail with someone not his wife.  Do we want to be part of the chorus heaping shame on him for his cyber-randiness?  Again, the duplicity is worthy of criticism, but being playful on sexual chatrooms in and of itself ought not to trigger ritual political seppuku – particularly with something – let’s be honest – this was pretty tame.


  1. True — but was Lee pressured to resign by people who “think critically about sex and sexuality” or by the purity police within his own party who have defined morality almost entirely in terms of private sexual conduct? They are the ones who triggered the political seppuku, I think.

  2. playful?! flirting?! On Craig’s list?! how Victorian! this was not a casual encounter at a political fundraiser….the guy was trying to get laid. and he was a righteous moralizing creep, which meets the ‘name and shame’ test. But don’t mistake me for an uptight sex al or anything, just trying to keep them somewhat honest, make them vote right.

  3. the brilliant typist means ‘uptight sex gal’

  4. Haha! The commercial has the words and voice over, ” A New Direction”… as in the show Glee, where the club name is New Directions… as in a phrase that in this case cracks me up: A Nude Erection / a New Direction. LOL! Too funny! He was hoping to show his new direction to a chick from CL. Haha!

  5. New Gender & Sexuality Law Blog Post: Congressperson Chris Lee's Resignation – Let's Pause Before We Heap On

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