Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) told a New York radio station Sunday that an ethics investigation into his behavior focused on sexually-charged comments he made to an aide at a New Years Eve celebration, but claimed he was unaware of an ethics committee investigation into the incident until after he had announced his retirement last week.
Massa said he had believed the committee was investigating an unrelated fundraising letter, and suggested that the ethics dust-up may have been orchestrated by Democratic leaders to get him out of office before the health care vote.
In an audio recording of Massas weekly radio show on New York station WKPQ Power 105 FM, made available via the Web site of local station 13 WHAM-TV, the New York lawmaker detailed the incident that he says is the center of the ethics inquiry.
On New Years Eve, I went to a staff party. It was actually a wedding for a staff member of mine; there were over 250 people there. I was with my wife. And in fact we had a great time. She got the stomach flu, he said.
Massa explained that he then danced first with the bride, who was not identified, and then with a bridesmaid. He said multiple cameras recorded the incident.
I said goodnight to the bridesmaid, Massa continued. I sat down at the table where my whole staff was, all of them by the way bachelors.
One of them looked at me and as they would do after, I dont know, 15 gin and tonics, and goodness only knows how many bottles of champagne, a staff member made an intonation to me that maybe I should be chasing after the bridesmaid and his points were clear and his words were far more colorful than that, Massa said. And I grabbed the staff member sitting next to me and said, Well, what I really ought to be doing is fracking you. And then [I] tossled the guys hair and left, went to my room, because I knew the party was getting to a point where it wasnt right for me to be there. Now was that inappropriate of me? Absolutely. Am I guilty? Yes.
But Massa said that the staff member whom he made the comments to never said to me that he felt uncomfortable, and charged that incident was raised by another aide who had witnessed the incident.
It was a third-party political correctness statement, Massa said. Massas former deputy chief of staff, Ron Hikel, has been identified in media reports as the source of the ethics complaint.
In the radio show, Massa also accused Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) of lying about the timeline of the investigation.
In a statement released Wednesday, Hoyers office said the Maryland lawmaker was alerted to the allegations against Massa in early February by his staff. The statement said Hoyer gave Massa or his office 48 hours to report the complaint to the ethics panel or threatened to do so himself.
Steny Hoyer has never said a single word to me, at all, ever, not once. Not a word. This is a lie. Its a blatant, false statement, Massa said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.