Yesha Callahan Outed Chris Lee, the Craigslist Congressman: No Gawker Source Is Safe

Screen shot 2011-02-11 at 2.36.27 PM.png
Eliza Kruger, once anonymous
When Gawker took down New York GOP representative Christopher Lee of the 26th district, they did so based on the emails of an anonymous woman who made a Craigslist posting. In it, the woman begged, "Will someone prove to me not all CL men look like toads?" In response she got shirtless pictures of a man who claimed to be a divorced lobbyist, but with some simple Googling, she found out he was the very married Christopher Lee, an elected official. Following a few anonymous interviews, the Washington Post has outed Yesha Callahan, a 34-year-old employee of the University of Maryland, as the source. Somehow, she thought she could avoid scrutiny. Find out why that was a ridiculous expectation inside the Friday edition of Press Clips, our daily media column.

No Source Is Safe: "I didn't do this for the attention or, you know, notoriety or money or whatever," Callahan told Lonnae O'Neal Parker of the Post. "Now I just want to go about my daily business." Her expectations were altogether out of touch:

At a friend's suggestion, Callahan reached out to Maureen O'Connor at the gossip Web site Gawker, which guaranteed her anonymity. After the story appeared and the New York representative resigned, Belton interviewed Callahan anonymously about what happened for the Web site TheLoop21.com.
...
When contacted by the Post, Callahan said she's reeling from the intense interest in the story, noting with dismay that people were already trying find information about her. She expected -- maybe unrealistically -- to remain unidentified, and is now worried about the impact on her family, career and personal life.

Giving two anonymous interviews -- one to her friend at Loop21 and another as a follow-up on Gawker -- didn't help Callahan's cause to stay discreet. For instance, in the Gawker interview, Callahan insinuated that she followed the reporter, Maureen O'Connor, on Twitter, possibly narrowing her down to a pool of around 2,000 people.

But if she really hoped to stay anonymous, Callahan picked the wrong publication to bring her story to in the first place, considering how extensively anonymous sources factor in to the telling of Gawker's most tabloid-y posts. Take, for instance, three of their largest scoops in the last year, all based on the accounts of anonymous sources:

1. The iPhone 4: When an Apple employee (Gray Powell, outed by Gizmodo themselves) lost an iPhone prototype at a bar, a 21-year-old student found it and sold it to Gawker Media's Gizmodo for $5,000. Wired quickly identified Brian Hogan as the source.

2. Christine O'Donnell's Hook-Up: Gawker questionably published one sleazy man's account of a drunken Halloween he spent with a Tea Party candidate, and later that day, the anonymous ass was already fingered as Dustin Dominiak, after some digging by The Smoking Gun and Runnin' Scared.

3. Mark Sanchez's 17-year-old Squeeze: Just before the Craigslist Congressman, Gawker Media's sports site Deadspin had a little scoop of their own -- though the level of scandal is debatable -- when an anonymous 17-year-old said she hooked up with Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. Though she initially gave Deadspin the story for the promise of anonymity, she changed her mind about going through with it because that's what teenagers do: make brash decisions and then change their minds. Problem is, she'd already talked to the cutthroat editor A.J. Daulerio on the record before threatening him with litigation if he published her story.

So he made her pay. Throughout the semi-lurid tale, he littered hints about her identity, including a partially obscured photo, her initials and the fact that she appeared in the background of a Patrick McMullan party photo. Sure enough, the anonymous Sanchez source was outed as Eliza Kruger very soon after.

---

Then there's Callahan, who makes four. Save the Sanchez/Kruger case, it's not that the Gawker Media reporters hoped to have their sources outed. It happens to every news organization. But the way Gawker's narrative sensibilities work, the account of the unnamed is crucial to the storytelling, thus littering the features (which also often include photographic proof with faces barely edited out) with clues. Then the entire internet latches on to the anonymity and won't stop until they have their own piece of the pie. In some cases, like the Christine O'Donnell leak, it's because the anonymous source comes off like an ass, and the hive mind is out for revenge. In others, like for Callahan, it's merely a thirst to have the knowledge which has been withheld -- a good detective-like hunt for any hungry journalists. In an age when almost everyone has something of an online trail, it's not even very difficult! But Gawker tends to make it even easier.

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]



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10 comments
gome rof
gome rof

i posted something here questioning callahan's motives and inconsistencies in her statements and the positioning of how she "outed" herself int he Washington Post and this blog censored my comments, why?

Dsafasdf
Dsafasdf

o, which is it, did the washington post out her, or did she voluntarily interview with the post and waive anonymity? Yesha Callahan is being very shady on that point and the posts "I didn't do this for the attention or, you know, notoriety or money or whatever," a stunned Yesha Callahan told our colleague Lonnae O'Neal Parker. So which is it, because a look at flyblackchick.com reveals that Callahan is indeed attempting to gain profit and notoriety off this matter and the Post needs to earn back some journalistic integrity and explain if it was revealing a confidential source or an opportunist eager interviewee. http://theloop21.com/news/yesh...Callahan, 34, talked to The Washington Post and shared with them a total of 10 emails between her and Lee. The congressman lied to Yesha about his age, saying that he was 39-years-old and also divorced, when in fact he is still married –and 46! But Callahan is being shady about how talking to the Post came about:her blogs reads: "ince all anonymity is lost, and I’m the “bad” guy, might as well say my piece on my own site. Sure, I received photos, yes I sent them to Gawker. It’s nothing that I haven’t said to Gawker, The Loop 21 or The Washington Post, whom apparently received an anonymous tip from someone that gave them my name. So no, I didn’t reach out to The Washington Post to “give” them my story. They were the first to find my name and the reporter actually was pretty easy going about it. Thank you Lonnae.

Sure, I’m the bad woman.

Some even say I enticed former Congressman Chris Lee into sending me the shirtless photo. Excuse me for not realizing asking “Do you have something that doesn’t look like a JCPenney Ad” is considered enticing nowadays. Maybe I’ll use it more often. Maybe it’ll keep me off of Craigslist. Maybe it’ll yield me a financially & emotionally stable man. I mean anything is possible right?

The funny thing about Craigslist is that it’s a one stop shop. For all of you holier than thous out there, the same people you’re meeting from Match, E-Harmony, OkCupid and whatever other high priced service you want to use, guess what…they’re all on Craigslist too! And if you’re looking for a job, may I suggest the job ads as well. If you have a business, go ahead and post your information, posting a simple ad in less than 5 minutes will probably yield you a little extra spending money. There you go, my unpaid advertisement for Craigslist.

I’ve learned today to stay away from reading comment sections on articles that have been written. Especially when assholes who have no clue what they’re talking about are commenting. R.I.F. (reading is fundamental). Maureen at Gawker pretty much laid out the story from start to finish. Also, to set the record straight, Gawker didn’t pay me & I didn’t ask to be paid.

Then you have those people who want to “drop dimes” and give anonymous tips. Yeah, we all know how that goes. Nothing is anonymous. I learned that the hard way this week. Then you have people who want to search and dig. See the difference between them and myself, I didn’t have to dig hard. But if it makes you happy to go back YEARS in my history and find a state tax lien that has been satisfied, some parking violations, a few days in jail *GASP* over stupid shit and the recent Federal lawsuit regarding the previous name of my site, then knock yourselves out. Call every local newspaper or news channel. Shout it from the rooftops if it makes you feel better. Just don’t slip and fall, I don’t need another lawsuit because you broke your fucking neck while doing it.

Tonight I will sleep fine.

Tomorrow I will sleep fine.

Hopefully those people who live lily white lives with no blemishes will sleep fine as well. " she sounds pretty racist to me.

lonnae and yeshas lying party
lonnae and yeshas lying party

so, which is it, did the washington post out her, or did she voluntarily interview with the post and waive anonymity? Yesha Callahan is being very shady on that point and the posts "I didn't do this for the attention or, you know, notoriety or money or whatever," a stunned Yesha Callahan told our colleague Lonnae O'Neal Parker. So which is it, because a look at flyblackchick.com reveals that Callahan is indeed attempting to gain profit and notoriety off this matter and the Post needs to earn back some journalistic integrity and explain if it was revealing a confidential source or an opportunist eager interviewee. http://theloop21.com/news/yesh...Callahan, 34, talked to The Washington Post and shared with them a total of 10 emails between her and Lee. The congressman lied to Yesha about his age, saying that he was 39-years-old and also divorced, when in fact he is still married –and 46! But Callahan is being shady about how talking to the Post came about:her blogs reads: "ince all anonymity is lost, and I’m the “bad” guy, might as well say my piece on my own site. Sure, I received photos, yes I sent them to Gawker. It’s nothing that I haven’t said to Gawker, The Loop 21 or The Washington Post, whom apparently received an anonymous tip from someone that gave them my name. So no, I didn’t reach out to The Washington Post to “give” them my story. They were the first to find my name and the reporter actually was pretty easy going about it. Thank you Lonnae.

Sure, I’m the bad woman.

Some even say I enticed former Congressman Chris Lee into sending me the shirtless photo. Excuse me for not realizing asking “Do you have something that doesn’t look like a JCPenney Ad” is considered enticing nowadays. Maybe I’ll use it more often. Maybe it’ll keep me off of Craigslist. Maybe it’ll yield me a financially & emotionally stable man. I mean anything is possible right?

The funny thing about Craigslist is that it’s a one stop shop. For all of you holier than thous out there, the same people you’re meeting from Match, E-Harmony, OkCupid and whatever other high priced service you want to use, guess what…they’re all on Craigslist too! And if you’re looking for a job, may I suggest the job ads as well. If you have a business, go ahead and post your information, posting a simple ad in less than 5 minutes will probably yield you a little extra spending money. There you go, my unpaid advertisement for Craigslist.

I’ve learned today to stay away from reading comment sections on articles that have been written. Especially when assholes who have no clue what they’re talking about are commenting. R.I.F. (reading is fundamental). Maureen at Gawker pretty much laid out the story from start to finish. Also, to set the record straight, Gawker didn’t pay me & I didn’t ask to be paid.

Then you have those people who want to “drop dimes” and give anonymous tips. Yeah, we all know how that goes. Nothing is anonymous. I learned that the hard way this week. Then you have people who want to search and dig. See the difference between them and myself, I didn’t have to dig hard. But if it makes you happy to go back YEARS in my history and find a state tax lien that has been satisfied, some parking violations, a few days in jail *GASP* over stupid shit and the recent Federal lawsuit regarding the previous name of my site, then knock yourselves out. Call every local newspaper or news channel. Shout it from the rooftops if it makes you feel better. Just don’t slip and fall, I don’t need another lawsuit because you broke your fucking neck while doing it.

Tonight I will sleep fine.

Tomorrow I will sleep fine.

Hopefully those people who live lily white lives with no blemishes will sleep fine as well. " she sounds pretty racist to me.

Dfo
Dfo

sdfdfvsd

Ross
Ross

Really? Favre's penis doesn't even make this list? It doesn't even beat the Sanchez story?

Ge12
Ge12

that women who sent chris lee's picture and emails to gawker has is the most insensitive person I have ever heard of. How awful of her. Couldnt she just tell him to back off and that she knew he was a liar. why in the world did she have to send this to gawker. what a mean and terrible thing to do

Victoria Clark
Victoria Clark

So Chris Lee attempting to date other women while married isn't considered insensitive? His inability to think through the consequences of sending a topless photo to a stranger via Craigslist is the reason why he had to quit his job. If Chris Lee isn't bright enough to show respect for his wife and his job, why should anyone else?

Mwatuanghi
Mwatuanghi

How awful? The guy had an over 80% approval rating founded on the veneer of conservative family values, and if recent investigation displays, has been living this alternate life or attempting to cheat on his wife for years.

Poetic Justice is what it's called.

Postmasteruser
Postmasteruser

I thought that this lady (Yesha Callahan) decided on her own to disclose her name to Washington post and that nobody outed her.

Is this not the case?

Mwatuanghi
Mwatuanghi

Yeah, she chose to reveal her identity to the Post. The Village Voice is just mad they didn't get the first scoop. Hence, this pathetic attempt at discrediting the rival news group.

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