WASHINGTON — Rep. Christopher Lee, a second-term Republican congressman representing western New York state, abruptly resigned from Congress Wednesday afternoon after flirtatious e-mails — including a photo of the congressman shirtless — were posted by an online gossip site.
In a brief statement, Lee referred only obliquely to "this distraction," apologizing "deeply and sincerely" for harm he caused his family, staff and constituents.
Just hours earlier, the website Gawker posted e-mails Lee exchanged with an unnamed, single 34-year-old woman in response to a personal ad she posted on Craigslist. In the e-mails, apparently sent from Lee's personal account under his actual name, the married 46-year-old congressman claimed to be a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist. In the photo, he flexes a bicep.
"I promise not to disappoint," he wrote in an e-mail.
The woman released them to Gawker after she Googled his name and discovered he was not who he claimed to be.
"I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness," Lee said in his statement.
Lee, who was an executive with a multinational manufacturing company, had little political experience before his election in New York's 26th District in 2008.
Lee becomes the second representative to quit this year. California Rep. Jane Harman, a Democrat, on Tuesday announced her resignation to accept a leadership position with the Woodrow Wilson Institute in Washington.