Eric Massa Details Alleged Harassment, Blames Health Care Debate for Resignation
Updated at 5:49 p.m. ET with Massa's resignation, Hoyer's response to accusation.
Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) on Sunday revealed the details of the incident that led to sexual harassment charges against him, but he said his resignation was ultimately the fault of Democratic leaders in search of health care votes.
Massa was one of 39 Democrats in the House to vote against health care reform the first time the House voted on it. Democratic leaders are now negotiating with all of their House members to round up enough votes to pass the Senate bill. Massa's decision to resign makes that effort easier.
"Mine is now the deciding vote on the health care bill and this administration and this House leadership have said, quote-unquote, they will stop at nothing to pass this health care bill, and now they've gotten rid of me and it will pass. You connect the dots," Massa said on a radio show Sunday, Roll Call reports.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's spokesperson called the charge "completely false."
"There is zero merit to that accusation," Katie Grant told Politico.
Massa announced Friday he would resign today after it was revealed the House ethics committee is investigating charges he harassed a male staff member. His resignation took effect at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time Monday.
He told a New York radio station Sunday that the charges stemmed from an incident at a wedding reception on New Year's Eve, which was attended by many of his staff members, Roll Call reports. Massa said he sat down with a group of bachelors from his staff after dancing with a bridesmaid.
"One of them looked at me and as they would do after, I don't know, 15 gin and tonics, and goodness only knows how many bottles of champagne, a staff member made an intonation to me that maybe I should be chasing after the bridesmaid and his points were clear and his words were far more colorful than that," Massa said. "And I grabbed the staff member sitting next to me and said, 'Well, what I really ought to be doing is fracking you.' And then [I] tossled the guy's hair and left, went to my room, because I knew the party was getting to a point where it wasn't right for me to be there. Now was that inappropriate of me? Absolutely. Am I guilty? Yes."
Massa said the staff member to whom he was speaking "never said to me that he felt uncomfortable," and that the harassment charges were filed by another staffer.
Politico reported last week that Massa's deputy chief of staff and legislative director Ronald Hikel told the House ethics committee last month that the congressman was harassing a staff member.
Update: Massa also on a recent edition of his radio show blasted White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for pressuring him to vote in favor of the president's agenda.
"Rahm Emanuel is the son of the devil's spawn," Massa said (audio available here). "He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote. He would strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive."
He described a scenario within his first two months of Congress in which he was showering in the congressional gym.
"I am sitting there showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me because I wasn't going to vote for the president's budget," Massa said. "He goes there to intimidate members of Congress... He's hated me since day one, and now he wins. He'll get rid of me, and this bill will pass."
Politico points to a documentary from Massa's unsuccessful 2006 congressional bid that shows the beginnings of the tension between Massa and Emanuel. At one point, Emanuel tells Massa to rein in his anger during a television appearance.
"If all people see is anger, they'll see anger. Do you ever remember a person not likeable winning?" Rahm says. "Be likable."
Massa will be a guest on Glenn Beck's Fox News show Tuesday.
"Massa for the full hour. I just spoke with him off air. All Americans need To hear him," Beck wrote on Twitter.
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