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. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    This man's health and family are more important to him at this time, let him retire in peace.

    March 3, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  2. Gary

    Democrats harrass (Massa), use prostitutes (Spitzer), cheat on their spouses (Edwards, Clinton) even sometimes with men (McGreevy). They cheat on taxes (Rangel, Gietner), they make backroom deals with Pharma (Obama). There is no end to the corruption. Gary

    March 3, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  3. misanthropicus

    So it's not about Massa's harrassing a male staffer, it's about his being a cancer survivor who should relent the pace of his work in behalf of the oppressed massess –
    What a bunch of creeps you liberals are (i am talking about the CNN crew) –
    Have this happened with a Republican, you'd be all over the place hollering' "look at them, look at them!'

    And publish this –

    March 3, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  4. ed

    democrat party = party of corruption, crooks, + hypocrites!!!

    March 3, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  5. Tim

    One way to not address the allegations. If he were a Republican, he would be held to a different standard by CNN and the rest of the MSM.

    March 3, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  6. kpAT

    Classic,.... another POS from NY bites the dust,.. Good riddance. Go back to that infested cesspool of corruption. You transferred enough of it to Washington.

    March 3, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  7. Kevin in Ohio

    Bye bye.

    March 3, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  8. David

    ... and the Republicans are choirboys? Please.... imbeciles.....

    March 3, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  9. Jerry - Florida

    Because he is Democrat, he will get away with it, too. I wish Republicans would learn to protect each others backs, just like the Democrats are doing. They are lying, cheating, stealing, etc., etc. and, And , essentially they are getting away with murder, and will continue to so, until they stopped on their tracks.

    Thanks President NObama, Boblehead Pelosi, Harry (Senile) Reed, etc., etc.

    Stay tuned. More change that we CAN"T AFFORD or want is coming!

    March 3, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  10. Jerry - Florida

    President NObama, PLEASE increase your smoking and eating like a "chancho." The sooner you are gone the less you'll continue to damage this once great country.

    March 3, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  11. Peter

    Gary, unfortunately corruption is nonpartisan. I could name an equal number of Republicans who have been caught with prostitutes (David Vitter), caught in an adulterous affair (Sanford), caught in bed with lobbyists (anybody even remotely connected to Jack Abramoff, not to mention those members of Congress who oppose health care reform to help the insurance industry), etc. Our country must re-think why government office attracts amoral slimeballs of all political stripes. Perhaps we should demand that they reduce their salaries to emphasize the "public service" of their office? What is it about politics that attracts self-serving jerks? Mr. Smith hasn't gone to Washington in far too long. It's time for the people to demand that their government represent them, not personal interests.

    March 3, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  12. Sue

    "tap tap tap"

    Which swamp are you going to drain first Pelosi???

    The swamp in Chicago???? The swamp in New York??? The swamp in Washington???

    March 3, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  13. leonardofru

    He is a Democrat ergo what he did was not harrasement. He was doing the work and the will of the people. Yeah, thats it, the work and the will of the people. Maybe Pelosi or Frank can hook him up with some young boys in their respective districts.

    March 3, 2010 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  14. Sonny Slater

    They are allegations, nothing has been proven. So let the process unfold before "convicting" him. In terms of the snide comments by obviously right wingers, you are so alienating in your negativity and so projective of your own inner hostility that you are hard to take seriously. Nothing in your blogging is appealing except to other bitter people.

    March 3, 2010 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  15. Bill

    There is an end toi the corruption; defeat them at the ballot box.

    March 3, 2010 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  16. Captain Awesome

    So this is another Mark Foley moment ala 2006, and just in time for the mid term elections. Since Massa is a democrat, however, I wonder if CNN and the rest of the media will report on this with the same fervor as with the Mark Foley scandal? Will the media go dumpster diving like they did in 2006?

    Real Change in 2010

    March 3, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  17. this black liberal hates Obama

    Why else do you think he's Retiring?

    March 3, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  18. Kevin in Ohio

    CLEAN THE SWAMP. Isn't that what you said you would do, Nancy?

    March 3, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |

    Another man another pig. More women needed at the top.

    March 3, 2010 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  20. Willy Brown

    Another one of Nancy's swamp creatures.

    March 3, 2010 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  21. Jackalope

    Good decision, sorry it didn't work out. Step aside and let another Democrat who can focus on the people's business represent the people in your district.

    March 3, 2010 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  22. Greg, San Francisco, CA

    Gary – Republicans harrass (Bob Packwood), use prostitutes (David Vitter), cheat on their spouses (Sanford, Ensign) even sometimes with men (Larry Craig). They cheat on taxes (Schwarzenegger, Blunt), they make backroom deals with Pharma (Bush). There is no end to the corruption. Greg

    March 3, 2010 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  23. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    Sanford........ Edwards........ Newt....... etc., etc., etc., another schmuck!

    March 3, 2010 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  24. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    PS. (excuse the yelling)


    McCain = adulterer

    Sanford= adulterer

    Newt- adulterer

    McCathy (1950s) = insane

    Nixon & Bush = Liars

    Do I need to go on?

    March 3, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  25. Gary

    Boy, using bad language in front of staffers sure is worse than the money laundering of Tom Delay and the bribes of Randal Duke Cunningham, and the outright harassment of underage congressional pages by Mark Foley.

    Massa served 24 years in the Navy. If he wants to swear now and then, I say let him. If Bunning and Cheney can do it on the floor of the Senate, then Massa can do it in his office.

    March 3, 2010 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
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