Does John Boehner Have a Zero Tolerance Policy for Congressional Sex Scandals?
Rep. Chris Lee swiftly resigned after his shirtless photo was published, but the new House Speaker is reported to have warned him about partying with lobbyists before
Do Republicans have a zero tolerance policy on sex scandals? Rep. Chris Lee resigned only a few hours after Gawker posted the shirtless cheesecake photo the married congressman took with his BlackBerry and sent to a lady he found on Craigslist. Republican leaders told Lee to go, perhaps because House Speaker John Boehner had warned Lee about partying with female lobbyists last year, telling him to "knock it off," according to Politico's Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan report.
Lee would not be the first Republican member urged to step down after scandal since Boehner became the leader of the House GOP. In May, Boehner pushed out Mark Souder a week after news broke that the Indiana congressman had had an affair with the staffer with whom he'd made a pro-abstinence video. (Lee's New York district happens to border the district of former Rep. Eric Massa, who resigned last year after reports of sexually harassing male staffers. Democrats, though, allowed Massa to flail on cable news a few days--defending his actions as simply aggressive tickling--before he stepped down.)
If Boehner has adopted a stricter code of conduct for the House, it would be a departure from the more lax policy in the Senate for such lapses. Sen. David Vitter ran for reelection, and won, despite admitting to enjoying the services of prostitutes. Sen. John Ensign is still in office despite not only having a long-term affair with a married staffer, but then using his parents' money to try to pay off the staffer's angry husband. And Sen. Larry Craig didn't resign (though he didn't seek reelection) after being arrested for soliciting sex in an airport bathroom.
Still, Boehner's zero tolerance doesn't mean he can't forgive and forget. National Journal's Jessica Taylor reports that the leading candidate to replace Lee is Carl Paladino, who ran for New York governor last year and lost. Paladino famously made a few missteps of his own, including forwarding an emails picturing a woman performing a sexual act with a horse and a porno clip in which he called the woman "a keeper."