Rep. Chris Lee In A 3-Hour Flash Scandal

By , February 11, 2011 8:23 pm

Guest post for Jazz Guns Apple Pie

Representative Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) resigned from the House of Representatives this week following an email flirtation with a woman he met after responding to an ad in the “Women Seeking Men” section of Craigslist. Sadly for him, the woman also knows how to use Google to look up people’s names, and how to send emails to Gawker.

See the Gawker reporter who broke the story.

And while it’s remarkable what 24 hours can do to damage the life of a politician with high libido, low impulse control and a camera phone, I want to – instead – look at one particular sentence that the Washington Post wrote in their article covering the incident:

“The familiar cycles of a Washington sex scandal were compressed into a blur of tweets and news alerts.”

This sentence is remarkable to me in so many ways.  Take the first part: “The familiar cycles of a Washington sex scandal…” Can you feel the fatigue in that sentence? The implied “here we go again” sigh? The list of scandals pepper the headlines of the past: The obvious Clinton-Lewinsky saga, Newt Gingrich’s affair with aide Callista Bisek, Elliot Spitzer’s foray into, well, whatever it was. And just recently, new allegations about Speaker John Boehner having multiple affairs (reported by The Enquirer, but possibly coming closer to being printed in a more reputable news source soon.)

But even the San Francisco Chronicle’s online version of Lee’s recent misbehaviors asks of the many scandals, “Is anyone keeping count?”  The answer is, yes. We are. The same way we keep track of celebs who are dragged to rehab time after time. There’s an equal mixture of distain and train-wreck-curiosity that simultaneously makes us want more juicy details (Are there more photos? More women?) while also claiming we’re above it all.

Let’s also take the second part of the Post’s sentence: “…compressed into a blur of tweets and news alerts.” Within hours, the man’s dalliances were posted on thousands of websites, and tweeted relentlessly (not without some humor, mind you: “cellphone camera is the worst thing to happen to men with bad impulse control”). The story broke at noon, and by 3pm, he had resigned. That is astounding to me. Pre-Internet news, this would have taken weeks to formulate and resolve itself. Now, a man’s career is over in 3 hours (barring any further revelations, which I have an inkling might be lurking somewhere in Rep. Lee’s email box.)

So, as another politician’s sex scandal flashes through the headlines, this time it’s not the weeks-long-affair (no pun intended) of news days gone by. Within hours, it’s published, denied and verified. Capitulations are made, leading to the astoundingly rapid resignation of a rising politician. The news cycle gets faster and faster, thanks to emailed photos, online news distribution, fast-forward Twittering, email tracking, Google, and Gawker. This was the 3-hour flash scandal. Do I hear 3 minutes?

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t over.  The former Rep. Lee will definitely write a book, possibly get a divorce, and may even be offered a talk show on a cable news network depending on his level of charisma. He may even make his lie come true and become – as he stated in his emails – a lobbyist.

Then again, maybe it’s better if he just disappears. The statement on his website,“I have made profound mistakes,” leaves me – and undoubtedly a thousand tabloid reporters – asking one question: Why is the word “mistakes” plural?

You can follow Beth on her blog and on Twitter.

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