The latest in a long line of Republican sex scandals

THE LATEST IN A LONG LINE OF REPUBLICAN SEX SCANDALS…. A couple of years ago, Republican Rep. Christopher Lee of New York, wrote a piece warning constituents about Internet safety. “[R]esponding to what may seem like a friendly e-mail or an appealing marketing offer can have serious consequences,” he said. “Private information and images can so easily be transmitted to friends and strangers alike.”

The conservative lawmaker really should have taken his own cautionary words more seriously.

Rep. Christopher Lee is a married Republican congressman serving the 26th District of New York. But when he trolls Craigslist’s “Women Seeking Men” forum, he’s Christopher Lee, “divorced” “lobbyist” and “fit fun classy guy.” One object of his flirtation told us her story.

On the morning of Friday, January 14, a single 34-year-old woman put an ad in the “Women for Men” section of Craigslist personals. “Will someone prove to me not all CL men look like toads?” she asked, inviting “financially & emotionally secure” men to reply.

That afternoon, a man named Christopher Lee replied. He used a Gmail account that Rep. Christopher Lee has since confirmed to be his own. (It’s the same Gmail account that was associated with Lee’s personal Facebook account, which the Congressman deleted when we started asking questions.)

By email, Lee identified himself as a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist and sent a PG picture to the woman from the ad. (In fact, Lee is married and has one son with his wife. He’s also 46.)

It got worse when the congressman sent a topless photo of himself, but before the story could spiral further, the woman Lee was apparently pursuing cut off communication — she realized he was lying about his age and occupation.

For his part, Lee has a defense. The married conservative claims his email account was hacked, and his office has a Jan. 21 email from the congressman to his staff, noting the security breach.

That might be more compelling if the emails in question hadn’t been sent a week before the hack. For that matter, it wouldn’t explain how the hacker managed to obtain a topless photo of the congressman, apparently taken by the congressman himself, or why the hacker might try to use the account to pick up a woman through Craigslist.

This seems like the kind of story that could have some legs. After all, there’s that photo, and it’s not every day married conservative congressman lie on Craigslist while trying to con unsuspecting women.

There are, however, two related angles to consider. The first is that this is yet another test for the GOP caucus’ “zero tolerance” policy. Remember, before the midterm elections, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) vowed that Republicans would “institute a zero-tolerance policy” when it comes to lawmakers and ethical transgressions once there was a GOP majority. The party has apparently decided this doesn’t apply to Rep. David Rivera’s (R-Fla.) criminal scandals. Will it apply to Christopher Lee? If not, why not?

The second is that, if history is any guide, Lee should be able to overcome this because sex scandals just don’t hurt Republicans the way they hurt Democrats. Consider the recent evidence — Ensign (adultery), Sanford (adultery), Vitter (prostitutes and adultery), Craig (gay adultery), Gibbons (adultery), Giuliani and Gingrich (a lot of adultery) all had sex scandals during their tenure in public service. Not one resigned in the wake of the revelations.

Among Democrats, we have Spitzer (prostitutes and adultery), John Edwards (adultery), Massa (sexual harassment), and McGreevey (gay adultery), all of whom either resigned or are persona non grata in Dem circles.

Given the double standard, Lee probably likes his odds.