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Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) made the right decision to resign from Congress.
The Ohio Republican, speaking at a press conference, dismissed questions that he was involved in the New York Republican’s choice to step down after the website Gawker posted alleged photos and e-mail conversations between Lee and a woman.
“Congressman Lee made his own decision that he felt was in his best interest and in the interest of his family,” Boehner said. “I believe that Members should be held to the highest ethical standard. That’s what the American people expect.”
He gave little detail about the timeline for when he found out about Lee’s indiscretions, confirming only that he had heard of the story posting on Gawker on Wednesday.
Boehner said he “wouldn’t know” whether the culture of Washington, D.C., is what leads to regular airing of lawmakers having affairs.
Still, the Speaker has worked behind the scenes to tamp down on inappropriate behavior.
Boehner first told Roll Call of his conversations with House Republicans in late May after he asked former Rep. Mark Souder to resign after the Indiana Republican had an extramarital affair with a staff member.
Boehner said at the time that he had spoken to several Members over the past year and a half who, he believed, had done something or came close to doing something unethical.
“I’ve had Members in here where I thought they crossed the line,” Boehner said at the time, mentioning former GOP Reps. John Doolittle (Calif.) and Rick Renzi (Ariz.). “I have had others I thought were approaching the line.”
Doolittle and Renzi stepped aside from their committee positions in 2007 after each of them came under federal investigation for unrelated incidents. Renzi faces corruption charges in federal court in Arizona; Doolittle has not been charged.
Over the summer, Boehner had more conversations after an interaction with Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and a woman at the Capitol Hill Club became public.
Boehner told the lawmakers that it was a “distraction” from the party’s goal of taking back the House, according to several sources familiar with the one-on-one talks.
Boehner declined Thursday to comment on whether those conversations are ongoing.
“My conversations with Members are private, and they will remain that way,” Boehner said.