Massa to Resign on Monday

Posted March 5, 2010 at 2:54pm

Updated: 4:26 p.m.

Freshman Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) announced on Friday that he will resign from the House effective 5 p.m. on Monday.

Massa surprised political observers when he announced on Wednesday that he would not run for re-election in November. He cited a reoccurrence of cancer as the reason for his decision, but it came to light simultaneously that he is under investigation by the House ethics committee for alleged sexual harassment of an aide.

In a statement released on his House Web site, Massa admitted to using language that “after 24 years in the Navy, might make a Chief Petty Officer feel uncomfortable.” He said “I own this reality” and he apologized.

“During long car rides, in the early hours of the evening, late at night and always in private, I know that my own language failed to meet the standards that I set for all around me and myself,” he said. “I fell short and I believe now, as I have always believed, that it is not enough to simply talk the talk, but rather I must take action to hold myself accountable.”

Massa said he first learned via the Internet that a complaint had been filed with the ethics committee regarding statements he made that made an aide feel “uncomfortable.” He said he learned of the complaint after he had decided not to seek re-election.

Massa’s resignation is likely to trigger a special election in the politically competitive 29th district. Embattled New York Gov. David Paterson (D) could, however, wait to call an election until the regularly scheduled Election Day in November. The only legal constraint on Paterson is that he must set an election date 45 days from the time he officially declares the seat vacant.

Democrats have claimed a string of recent special election victories, including two in similarly competitive upstate New York districts last year.

The candidate field for both parties is in flux. The only declared Republican to take on Massa is former Corning Mayor Tom Reed (R).

The text of Massa’s statement follows:

Two days ago as I sat reading my new annual CAT scan, having been told that the anomalies in the films may or may not be scar tissue, I decided to finally take the advice that my doctors have repeatedly given me, and that is to take care of my family and myself before my profession.

After I decided not to run again I was told, for the first time, that a member of my staff believed I had made statements that made him feel “uncomfortable.” I was told that a report had been filed with the Congressional Ethics Committee. At no point prior to this had any member of the Ethics Committee communicated with me directly — if fact I first read it on the internet.

I own this reality. There is no doubt in my mind that I did in fact, use language in the privacy of my own home and in my inner office that, after 24 years in the Navy, might make a Chief Petty Officer feel uncomfortable. In fact, there is no doubt that this Ethics issue is my fault and mine alone.

But in the incredibly toxic atmosphere that is Washington D.C., with the destruction of our elected leaders having become a blood sport, especially in talk radio and on the internet, there is also no doubt that an Ethics investigation would tear my family and my staff apart. Some would say that this is what happens when you stand apart from political parties, which I have done. Others will say that this is what happens to a non politician when they go to Washington DC.

I want to make something perfectly clear. My difficulties are of my own making. Period. I am also aware that blogs and radio will have a field day with this in today’s destructive and unforgiving political environment. In that investigators would be free to ask anything about me going back to my birth, I simply cannot rise to that level of perfection. God knows that I am a deeply flawed and imperfect person.

During long car rides, in the early hours of the evening, late at night and always in private, I know that my own language failed to meet the standards that I set for all around me and myself. I fell short and I believe now, as I have always believed, that it is not enough to simply talk the talk, but rather I must take action to hold myself accountable.

Therefore, effective at 5 PM on Monday the 8th of March I will resign my position as the Federal Representative of New York’s 29th Congressional District in the 111th Congress. I do so with a profound sense of failure and a deep apology to all those whom, for the past year, I tried to represent as our Nation struggles with problems far greater than anyone can possibly imagine.

I hope that my family, constituents, and fellow Members of Congress can accept this apology as being both genuine and heartfelt and I wish for them and all Americans only the best. I will take all actions possible to ensure that my personal health is secured in that I know that mine is a far more fragile lifeline than most. For the millions of fellow cancer survivors with whom I share this experience, they, more than anyone else, will understand the honesty and openness in this statement.

I ask that members of the press respect the privacy of my family, my staff, and me at this time.