Massa Says ‘Wrestling’ Wasn’t Sexual Harassment

Posted March 9, 2010 at 9:01pm

In the final leg of his Congressional farewell tour, ex-Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.), who resigned Monday amid allegations he sexually harassed his own staff, denied he groped any of his aides, while also stating he would not seek election again.

In an appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Massa responded to a query about his reasons for retiring without citing an ethics investigation into his actions. “I am leaving because I have to fight simultaneously a potential recurrence of cancer, the Democratic leadership, a health care bill that’s going to destroy this country,” he said.

But Massa, who has alleged Democratic leaders leaked news of the ethics investigation in an effort to force him from the House before the health care vote, could not specify who in leadership wanted him to leave prior to his decision to resign Friday.

“I’ve had that said to me a bunch of times,” Massa said. “‘Eric, you’re stirring the pot, leadership doesn’t like you.'”

Queried directly about an incident Massa discussed in an earlier interview Tuesday, the New Yorker denied that he had ever touched his male aides in a sexual manner.

The incident, which Massa first revealed on Fox News, occurred during Massa’s 50th birthday celebration, when he has said he lived with several of his aides in a Capitol Hill home.

“When four guys jump on you to wrestle you and prove you’re 50 years old anything could be anything,” Massa said. He denied having touched anyone inappropriately during the incident. He later added: “I never admitted groping.”

During the interview, he also stated: “When you grab someone and you’re wrestling, I don’t know how to describe that word.”

Massa said that he had been unaware, until informed by Larry King, that his former deputy chief of staff, Ron Hikel, had first reported allegations to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) office and then to the ethics committee in February.

“I am more than curious and someday perhaps we’ll talk,” Massa said, noting that Hikel had at one time lived in his home.

He later said: “The very first time I heard this had anything to do with my former deputy chief of staff was just now.”

Massa also refused to address questions about his sexual preferences, stating: “Ask my wife. Ask my friends. Ask the 10,000 sailors I served with in the Navy.” He also said: “Why would anybody even ask that question in this day and age?”

The New Yorker, who described himself as “roadkill,” said he would not return to office: “I’m not running for public office,” Massa said.