In a blaze of fury and resentment, Congressman Eric Massa (D-29) claimed he was targeted by his own party for opposing the current health care bill. He claimed he was set up as payback. He claims that the language he had used is not much different than White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel or many other lawmakers.
All of this, and he's still going to resign.
First, let's start with the health issues. Massa is a cancer survivor and last week he said that he recently had a cancer flare-up, though he is not currently suffering from cancer. That health scare convinced Massa that he should retire when his term is up at the end of this year.
His health issues have nothing to do with his resignation. That's not an opinion. Massa acknowledges that he is resigning because he didn't want his family to endure a Congressional Ethics investigation.
You can listen to his 90-minute radio tirade by clicking the link above. The Congressman apparently decided that he had become targeted and he wanted to let it out. He ripped Democrats. He ripped Republicans. He ripped tea partiers. He ripped voters who donated money to him. He ripped Bob Lonsberry. He ripped the White House.
But Massa has yet to take hard questions from news reporters on any of these issues. We hope he will do so today. Reporter Sean Carroll has been doing outstanding work on this story.
So let's get to the meat of what Massa said.
He describes the incident that could be grounds for sexual harassment.
Massa says it happened a few months ago after a wedding. He and his male staff were sitting around, late at night, drinking. When a bridesmaid walked by, a male staffer implied that Massa should attempt to hook up with the woman. Massa says he responded by tusseling the male staffer's hair and then saying, "Well, what I really ought to be doing is f---ing you."
Since this story broke last week, Massa has been conflating "salty language" with this incident. But the incident he describes is not simply "salty language." Most employers have strict language about making sexual remarks or overtones toward staff members, male or female. Massa continues to say that he used salty and embarrassing language and he admits he was wrong to do so. He also says that this is the only incident he can think of that would come out of an Ethics investigation.
If this is the only incident that could come out, and he's willing to talk about it publicly, why not stay in office and let the House investigate? There's nothing else to find, right? Well, Massa says it would still be too painful for his family.
Massa says Democratic leaders need votes for health care reform and he was pushed out.
It's not clear how many votes House Dems currently have for health care. Certainly the vote could be close. But there is no evidence that the House is trying to force resignations of other Dems who oppose the current bill. It's also worth noting that Massa is not taking a conservative position on health care reform; he wants a single-payer system, which is a much more progressive solution and entails much bigger government.
Massa says Fox News will have to educate the country about the Dems' plans to shove health care down the nation's throat.
We'll keep working hard locally to provide thorough coverage, too.
Massa says numerous voters were upset with him for opposing the current reform bill... But then says that Americans don't support the current reform bill.
In an apparent effort to describe his independence, Massa described hearing from constituents who are angry that they supported him, only to have him go against the current health care bill. He says that no one can own his vote. He says all of these voters are upset because they thought he would just go along with the party.
But then he says that Americans don't want this bill. He cites polls showing how unpopular it is. Which reminds us...
Last year Massa got in some trouble for saying it's important to ignore polls and do what's right.
When Massa famously said he would "vote against the interests of his constituents," the context indicated that he meant he would vote against their desires if he thought it was in their best interest. In other words, he'd ignore the polls and vote in an unpopular way if he thought it was the right thing to do.
Now, it seems, he wants to cite polls as a reason for opposing the current bill.
Massa says there is a bill that will bring parties and people together.
He wondered on the radio program why Dems won't just put together a bill that would be supported by "90 percent of Congress and 70 percent of taxpayers." He seems to insist this is possible. But Massa supports single payer health care, which is not in the same stratosphere of public support as even current proposals.
Massa says he's always been a fighter... but he won't fight to stay in Congress.
During his campaigns, Massa has repeatedly touted his role as a fighter, a non-conformist, a tough and strong leader. His supporters might wonder: If he's a fighter, and he thinks he was done wrong, and he cares about the coming health care vote, why not fight? We don't know exactly, other than the Congressman's insistence that an Ethics investigation would be too rough on his family. Remember, it's not about health. He planned to retire at the end of this year, not now, so the issue is the Ethics investigation.
We hope to speak directly to Mr. Massa, who has always been accessible in his time in office.