When allegations of sexual harrassment involving Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) arose last week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer claimed that he warned Massa’s office to forward them to the House Ethics Committee or he would do it himself, and that they duly complied. In an interview yesterday, Massa — who will resign from office today — claimed that Hoyer lied, and that he first heard of the allegations after Hoyer went public with them. Massa accused Democratic Party leadership and the White House of railroading him in order to get him out of the way of ObamaCare:
Roll Call reports this morning that on the local radio show he hosts in his district, Massa said he had not been informed of the sexual harassment allegations before they became public. He claimed that Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., spoke falsely when he said he had brought the matter to him previously, Massa said. “Steny Hoyer has never said a single word to me, at all, ever, not once,” Massa said. “Not a word. This is a lie. It’s a blatant, false statement.”
He also railed against Hoyer for discussing Ethics Committee business with the press. “Never before in the history of the House of Representatives has a sitting leader of the Democratic Party discussed allegations of House investigations publicly before findings of fact. Ever.”
Massa, who voted against health care reform in November, accused Democratic leaders of driving him out of office in the cause of passing health care reform. “With the departure of Congressman Neil Abercrombie (D), who is running for the governorship of Hawaii, and with the tragic and very sad passing of my personal friend Jack Murtha (D-Pa.), 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.”
The comment that landed Massa in hot water, he claimed, was a sexual proposition he made in jest at a table full of drunken male staffers at a wedding reception on New Year’s Eve. He also said that the complainant was not the man he allegedly harassed, but an offended third party who witnessed the incident.
If that’s true, then Massa has a perfect remedy at hand: don’t resign. After all, he’s under no particular requirement to do so, except for his own conscience. His resignation isn’t a necessity based on his decision to retire at the end of his term. Under the circumstances, his resignation looks more like an admission of wrongdoing (beyond that of making a crude joke at a cocktail party), and if that’s not the case, then he should rescind it.
Why did Hoyer and Pelosi make such a public spectacle of the ethics investigation? That may have a slightly less paranoid explanation. Charlie Rangel had just embarrassed the House leadership, and with a series of scandals threatening to turn 2010 into a rerun of 2006 from the opposite direction, both Hoyer and Pelosi certainly had enough motive to grandstand to the press. That may not have been motivated over Massa’s vote on ObamaCare, but just as a way to look proactive rather than reactive to the latest ethics eruption in the press.
Massa is ill with cancer and says he needs to leave Congress to focus on his therapy. That’s certainly understandable. But Massa can’t claim that Hoyer and Pelosi railroaded him out of office if he resigns on his own for health reasons. If he wants to be the “deciding vote” on ObamaCare, all he has to do is stick around. If he doesn’t, that’s entirely his decision, but it sounds like a smoke screen rather than an exposé. (via JWF and CentristNet)
Update: Here’s the audio of the interview, via The Right Scoop: