March 3rd, 2010
10:10 PM ET
11 years ago

Retiring Democrat denies harassment allegations

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Rep. Eric Massa announced Wednesday that he will not seek a second term."]Washington (CNN) - Rep. Eric Massa, D-New York, denied reports Wednesday that he harassed one of his Capitol Hill staffers - announcing, however, that he would not seek re-election because of health concerns.

A spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer acknowledged that allegations of misconduct against Massa, 50, were under review by the House Ethics Committee.

Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant said that a member of Massa's staff told Hoyer's staff about the allegations, and Hoyer gave the retired Navy commander 48 hours to take the matter to the Ethics Committee.

"Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa's staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations," Grant said. "Mr. Hoyer does not know whether the allegations are true or false, but wanted to ensure that the bipartisan committee charged with overseeing conduct of members was immediately involved to determine the facts."

The online journal Politico reported earlier Wednesday that Massa was stepping down "amid allegations he sexually harassed a male staffer," and a senior Democratic aide later told CNN that the allegations involved a male staffer who was made to feel uncomfortable.

The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions among staff were private on a sensitive matter and because of the ongoing Ethics Committee investigation, said the allegation involved "a sexual implication."

Massa, who did not take questions during the media conference call in which he announced his decision not to seek re-election, addressed the allegations head-on and denied the report.

He described the report as "unsubstantiated without facts or backing."

But Massa, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, did acknowledge using "salty" language in the workplace.

"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," he said.

The freshman Democrat said he was announcing his decision to retire early in order to give candidates interested in replacing him sufficient time to plan a campaign.

Massa, a cancer survivor, told reporters that he was briefly hospitalized last December.

"I kept it private between myself and my immediate family," Massa said.

"It was a very intense and personal experience especially in light of having gone through this before."

Massa said he keeps up a brisk pace, "and my doctors have made it clear that I can no longer do that."

Massa is the 10th House Democrat to announce that he will not seek another term in the House nor run for a higher office in 2010. Seven House Republicans have also said they will outright retire at the close of the 111th Congress.

- CNN's Martina Stewart contributed to this report.

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soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Victim of GOP Taliban

    Well Gary...Darth Cheney lied about Iraq to make $ for his golfing buddies, Randall Cunningham confessed to taking bribes from defense lobbyists and is sitting in jail, Mark Foley resigned after being caught as a pediphile, Craig confessed to lewd conduct in the airport bathroom, Vitter confessed to hiring the D.C. hooker madame, Sanford lied about hiking and nobody had any idea where he was at for a week, Senator Ted Stephens was found guilty of taking bribes...the list goes on and on.

    March 4, 2010 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  2. freelance

    Or Mark Foley. Or Larry Craig. Or Bob Allen. Maybe Bush can hook him up with Ted Haggard. He had weekly meetings with him. Your memory is selective, leonard.

    March 4, 2010 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  3. Minnesota gal

    If it is ture he should go. Nothing wrong with being gay, but you should not harrass those who do not want the attention. Same as if a male harrassed a female it all counts.

    March 4, 2010 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  4. Minnesota gal

    Boy CNN has really gone republican. Can't stand the fact that Fox is a 24/7 republican infomation station and want to catch them. You used to worth watching. Now I guess I'll program you out of my remote like Fox.

    March 4, 2010 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  5. acfaber291

    everyone knows that he was called mark foley, jr.

    media will ignore.

    March 4, 2010 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  6. StopWaste

    This is one of the reasons why Obama wants to pass the Health Care Bill NOW. A bunch of Democrats are retiring along with some in trouble like Charlie Rangel, Pelosi, etc. He's seeing the writing on the wall and he's panicking.
    The Health Care Bill needs to be rewritten !! Where's the TORT Reform? Get rid of the pork/special sweetheart deals in the bill !!

    March 4, 2010 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  7. A4H

    This is not the first time Massa sexual assaulted a male underling; he did the same thing when he was in the US Navy, but the two officers (all males) did not report the said sexual assault of Massa to their commander because they were embarrased.

    March 4, 2010 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  8. Jim

    People on both sides here just like to lie and make stuff up. I'm starting to believe that America, on average, is full of very stupid people with no consideration for truth or their fellow American. God help the Divided States of America. The "Selfish, Greedy, Me Generation" will bring this country to its knees.

    March 4, 2010 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
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