Globe Editorial

Internet: A congressman loses his shirt

(Associated Press)
February 11, 2011

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US Representative Christopher Lee’s sudden resignation Wednesday didn’t follow the standard template. The New York Republican quit a few hours after a shirtless photo of him — sent during a flirty email exchange with a woman who wasn’t his wife — surfaced on the gossip website Gawker. The usual Washington sex scandal involves a drip-drip-drip of allegations; vague, unconvincing denials; and then a cringe-inducing press conference in which the politician dragoons his long-suffering wife into standing beside him. Lee’s quick exit raises the possibility that House Speaker John Boehner made him quit — or, more intriguingly, that his wife did.

The 46-year-old Lee, who billed himself as a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist, was done in by his obtuseness about the Internet. If his Facebook page hadn’t outed him as a married congressman, something else would have. When your congressional web page shows up whenever someone searches “Christopher Lee DC,’’ it’s not so smart to send compromising photos from an email address containing your name.

In the past, such recklessness led to plenty of private pain, but today’s technological and media environment ratchets up the agony. Lee’s wife hasn’t spoken out so far. But her husband did the right thing in sparing her any further discomfort in public. Congress will be fine without him.