Eric Massa To Retire…Amid Allegations He Sexually Harassed a Male Staffer…VIDEO


Eric Massa To Retire…Amid Allegations He Sexually Harassed a Male Staffer…

POLITICO.COM

First-term Rep. Eric Massa announced Wednesday that he will not seek reelection, saying his doctors have told him that he can’t continue to “run at 100 miles an hour.”

But several House aides told POLITICO that the House ethics committee has been informed of allegations that the New York Democrat, who is married with two children, made unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer.

A more senior staffer — Ronald Hikel, Massa’s former deputy chief of staff and legislative director — took the complaints to the ethics committee and was interviewed about them twice.

Hikel declined to comment about the situation, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) confirmed that the Democratic leadership had been informed of the allegations before the news broke.

“I’ve heard of that allegation before,” he said. “I had some indication, yes, but I don’t want to go beyond that. And my presumption [is] it’s being pursued in the course of business.”

Massa told POLITICO early Wednesday afternoon that no one has brought allegations of misconduct to him.

Asked specifically about the sexual-harassment allegations, he said: “When someone makes a decision to leave Congress, everybody says everything. I have health issues. I’ll talk about it [later].”

Massa has suffered from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. On a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon, he said he was hospitalized in December and that his doctors made it clear to him that he needed to slow down. He denied that he was retiring because of a sexual-harassment claim.

“Do I or have I ever used salty language when I’m angry, especially in the privacy of my inner office or even at home? Yes, I have, and I have apologized to those where it’s appropriate,” Massa said. “But those kinds of articles, unsubstantiated without fact or backing, are a symptom of what’s wrong with this city.”

A 20-year Navy veteran, Massa serves on the Agriculture, Armed Services and Homeland Security committees. His departure endangers Democrats’ hold on his competitive upstate New York seat.

Hoyer said news of the sexual-harassment allegation — coming on the same day Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) gave up his gavel on the Ways and Means Committee — shouldn’t give Republicans a leg up in November.

“I don’t think it helps anybody in the institution, any one of us on either side of the aisle. It certainly didn’t help Mr. Foley,” Hoyer said, referring to former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), who resigned from Congress in 2006 amid allegations that he sent sexually explicit instant messages to underage male pages.

“When there were allegations about Mr. Foley or others, I think the institution suffers,” Hoyer continued. “And that’s why it’s so important that each of us conducts ourselves in a way that won’t bring discredit on the institution.”

Massa’s decision came as a complete surprise to several of his freshman Democratic colleagues in the New York delegation. According to the (New York) Daily News, which first reported that Massa was retiring, the congressman called party leaders and supporters in his district Wednesday to tell them of his plans.
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