TODAY   |  February 10, 2011

Congressman quits after shirtless pic surfaces

Rep. Chris Lee, R-N.Y., submits his resignation after e-mails in response to a dating ad on Craigslist, including a shirtless picture of himself, are exposed. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports.

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>>> we'll begin with that photo scandal that led to the resignation of chris lee . kelly o'donnell has the details. kelly, good morning to you.

>> good morning. sudden is the word. what's so stunning about this is how fast it all unfolded. from the time of the revelation of the scandal to resignation was just a few hours. the former congressman is a former businessman, considered an up and coming conservative. he said that he wanted to leave office so that his actions would not be a distraction. this is the image, shirtless and flexing, that tanked the political career of chris lee , a conservative republican congressman from western new york .

>> we're here to get something done and that's what it's about.

>> reporter: his stunning message was read by a clerk on the house floor.

>> i hereby give notice of my resignation from the united states house of representatives , effective 5:00 p.m . eastern standard time wednesday february 9th , 2011 .

>> reporter: a lightning-fast fall for the married father just sworn in for a second term last month.

>> mr. lee is recognized.

>> reporter: lee took part in a house hearing just hours before quitting congress.

>> why i think congress gets such a bad name is we don't listen to the american people . hello, i'm chris lee . i have the great privilege of representing new york's 26th congressional district .

>> reporter: he was even given the job of delivering the republican address last spring.

>> i've been in congress now 16 months, but it doesn't take that long to figure out that washington does more talking than listening.

>> reporter: congressman lee was exposed wednesday by the gossip website gawker.com. their story claimed lee had been seeking women through craigslist.

>> he told her he was divorced and dating. he said he'd gone on dates with a woman from craigslist before.

>> reporter: the site also published e-mails that lee wrote to a woman. i'm a fit, fun, classy guy. live in capitol hill area. the 46-year-old congressman described himself as a 39-year-old lobbyist, adding i promise not to disappoint. the woman told gawker after she and lee exchanged dozens of e-mails she googled his name and then discovered lee was a married member of congress, not a divorced lobbyist.

>> she was outraged that he lied to her. when she realized he'd lie about several elements of who he was, how old he was, that he was married, that's when she cut off contact.

>> reporter: lee released a written apology saying he had made profound mistakes. i regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. i deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. and in that written apology, just two paragraphs, he didn't address any of the specifics of the photo or those alleged contacts with women. he simply got out. ironically, one of the pieces of legislation he was working on while here was dealing with how to help students be careful in how they perceive and deal with things on the internet to protect them from perhaps putting themselves in a difficult situation. meredith?

>> thank you very much.