The headline on Gawker posted at 2:33 p.m. February 9th read: The Craiglist Congressman. It featured a shirtless camera phone pictures of Republican Congressman Chris Lee posing in a mirror. The report detailed an email encounter that began in Januray on the website Craigslist. A woman said Lee responded to her ad, claiming to be a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist. He allegedly wrote, "I'm a very fit, fun, classy guy. Live in Cap Hill area. 6ft 190lbs Blond/Blue. 39.. Lobbyist. I promise not to disappoint."
Lee's office responded to Gawker claiming the Congressman's email had been hacked. They also said Lee sent his staff a notice on January 21st about the security breach. But the alleged messages between Lee and the woman happened a week earlier.
The story quickly went viral, picking up on Twitter and Facebook. Then major media outlets started pressing Lee for a statement on the story. That afternoon, Fox News caught Chris Lee walking to his car. The Congressman said, "I have to work this out with my wife."
A short time later, it all came crashing down. At 5:51 p.m., just 3 hours and 18 minutes after the story broke, Congressman Chris Lee resigned. In a statement he said, "It has been a tremendous honor to serve the people of Western New York. I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. 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."
Shortly after that statement was released, the clerk in the U.S. House made it official. "I hereby give notice of my resignation from the United States House of Representatives effective 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Wednesday. Feb. 9, 2011. Attached is the letter I submitted to Governor Andrew Cuomo. Signed sincerely, Christopher J. Lee, member of Congress."
With that, his seat was left vacant and soon after, the campaign to replace Lee began. Republican State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin was tapped by the GOP from a handful of potential candidates. Former candidate Jack Davis, chided by Republicans, joined the race on the Tea Party line. Democrats chose Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul. And Ian Murphy, the editor of a political satire website, joined as the Green Party candidate.