Washington (CNN) - Democratic Members of the New York Congressional delegation expressed support Friday for their colleague Rep. Charles Rangel, despite the charges leveled against him by the House ethics committee.
At a regular meeting of the New York delegation, which Rangel did not attend, the congressman was the first topic of discussion.
Representatives came "to discuss the situation with their embattled colleague," said one Congressional staff aide who was at the meeting.
"I think the New York delegation feels very strongly, very supportive of Charlie Rangel," said Rep. Edolphus Towns, a fellow New Yorker who has served with Rangel for almost three decades. "He's done so much for New York City, New York State and the nation."
Rep. Gary Ackerman, who organized and ran the meeting, said "I thought Charlie should be on the agenda. And with Charlie on the agenda, Charlie thought he shouldn't be at the meeting in case someone wanted to say something that they wanted to openly express. So Charlie wasn't at the meeting."
According to two Congressional staff aides who attended the meeting and asked not to be identified, Rep. John Hall praised the long-serving Congressman for a lifetime of service.
But Hall was also cautious about publicly expressing his support for Rangel, saying he prefers not to speak to the media about the situation until the ethics process concluded.
"Lots of people don't feel comfortable talking about other people's problems," said one aide.
Hall declined requests to be interviewed for this story.
Ackerman chalks up his ardent defense of Rangel to the many years they have served together in Congress.
"Those of us who are closer to him than most...known him for a longer period of time, are enthusiastically supportive of him," said Ackerman. "There are sometimes members with less seniority that get a little bit nervous because they are less personally secure."
Rangel's staunchest supporters said they would remain by his side if an ethics trial gets underway in the coming weeks.
"He's our leader. There's no doubt about it," said Towns.
"When you look at Charlie Rangel you hear Frank Sinatra singing "New York, New York," said Ackerman. "He is Mister New York."