Massa Ruins Glenn Beck's Day; Admits to Groping "Tickle Fight" with Staffer
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Backtracking on accusations he made last weekend, former Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., told Fox News host Glenn Beck that he resigned his office because he failed to live up to his own code of conduct -- not because he was forced out by the White House for failing to back the president's health-care plan, as he suggested just days ago. Beck, clearly disappointed, told viewers at the end of the hour-long interview, "America...I think I have wasted your time."
For one brief moment, Massa was a hero to right-wingers for his allegations that the bad behavior ascribed to him were just rumors advanced by Democratic leaders to push him out of the Congress. Rush Limbaugh sang his praises, and Glenn Beck gave the entire hour of Tuesday's "Glenn Beck Show" to the freshly former congressman. When allegations of sexual misconduct against Massa gained credibility on Tuesday, Limbaugh dialed back his appreciation of Massa.
Hours later, Massa ruined Glenn Beck's day when his hour of fame before the Fox News audience amounted to no credible evidence against the White House and a heavy dose of crazy from Massa, who compared his physical hijinks with staffers to a "crossing the line" Navy ceremony he had taken part in while in the service, which he described as looking like "an orgy" during the time of "Emperor Caligula." (He showed Beck a book of photographs as he described the ceremony.) The not-quite-one-termer attributed his admitted to bad behavior to his inability to adapt to civilian norms after he left the Navy.
Until his resignation on Monday, Massa was under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for the sexual harassment and groping of male staffers, allegations he denied to Beck -- although he did admit to subjecting a staffer to a "tickle fight" at his 50th birthday party, and to behaving badly while living in a townhouse with "bachelors" on Capitol Hill.
"I was set up for this from the very, very beginning," Massa told listeners of his Sunday radio show on WKPQ 105.3 FM in Hornell, N.Y., according to the Manhattan Web site, City Hall. "You think that somehow they didn’t come after me to get rid of me because my vote is the deciding vote in the health care bill? Then, ladies and gentlemen, you live today in a world that is so innocent as to not understand what's going on in Washington, D.C."
Today, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the House Whip, debunked Massa's claim, saying that Massa's vote had never been counted as a "yes" by the Democratic leadership.
The Massa drama began last week when the first-term congressman said he would not stand for re-election because of his battle with cancer. But already rumors were circulating of sexual misconduct with staffers, and by Monday, when news of a House ethics investigation of him came to light, Massa quit Congress altogether.
He suggested that the accusations against him were trumped up, and while he backtracked on his reasons for resigning, he still intimated that the charges of sexual misconduct lodged against him had nefarious roots. "I mean, think about this," he said to Beck, "within fifteen minutes of me deciding to leave, Politico published a full story on this, complete with anonymous sources and timelines that, obviously, had been in development for who knows how long. Don't you find that odd?"
Actually, Beck said, he didn't, seeing as there were two unauthorized biographies in the works about the Fox News host. So who's the bigger martyr, Massa?
During his Sunday radio show, Massa said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had harassed him on the health-care vote, even confronting Massa while the two stood naked in a shower at the House gymnasium, charges he stood by during his appearance on Beck's show.
Calling Emanuel "the son of the devil's spawn," Massa told his radio audience that Emanuel would "sell his own mother for a vote," and would "strap his own children to the front of a steam locomotive."
But when confronted by Beck to elaborate on his allegations of corruption in the Democratic Party, Massa offered only a litany of complaints about political arm-twisting by campaign contributors and Democratic leaders. Beck described Massa's accusations against Emanuel as grounds for "four charges Emanuel could be brought up on," but he didn't say what those were. Then when he asked Massa if Emanuel had intimidated the congressman, Massa said, "Do I look like someone who would be intimidated?" Beck was getting nowhere fast.
Pressed on his statements about Emanuel, Massa said he owed the chief of staff an apology when he made the comment about what Emanuel would do to his own children in order to get a vote. "On my radio show, Iover the top," Massa said. "He wouldn't do that. He'd tie my kids to the railroad to get a vote, but maybe not his."
Beck was stunned. He looked into the camera and apologized to his audience for having wasted their time. He then turned to Massa. "You're backtracking," he said. "You're now apologizing to Rahm Emanuel."
"That was sarcastic, Glenn," Massa replied.
Beck said that the White House had issued a statement saying that the Emanuel incident never happened, though it was unclear what statement he was referring to. Asked if there were any witnesses to his alleged naked confrontation with Emanuel, Massa said he didn't know. "I wasn't looking around," he said.
"Rahm Emanuel hates me," Massa added.
Beck berated Massa for "waving the white flag" by deciding to leave Congress. When asked what needed to change in Congress, Massa said, "Campaign finance reform," which irritated Beck, who, as the interview wore on, put his head in his hands more than once, and made a comment about "blood shooting out of my eyes."
Invoking his favorite visual theme -- the burning of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001 -- Beck said that Massa's reply was akin to a firefighter leaving the burning tower and, when asked what was needed, saying better 911 communication. Because, in Beck's book, all of America is a burning tower, and nothing but the "fight" in a fight-or-flight response will do.
Beck compared Massa unfavorably to Beck himself, who was in the fight for the long haul. "I believe, at some point, the system will destroy me," Beck said. But still, he would stay on for the fight. Because even this very important interview of the guy who failed to deliver the fodder Beck wanted against the Democrats -- even this interview was about Glenn Beck, and how much he loves his country.
While Massa denied that he had misbehaved sexually with his staffers, he did concede that he groped one.
"Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn't breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me," he said. "It was my 50th birthday. It was kill the old guy. You can take anything out of context."
Because he allowed himself to become too "familiar" with his staff, Massa said, he was now "between a rock and a hard spot." Yes, he actually said that.
Beck asked if there will be more leaks to come of misbehavior by Massa, a la Tiger Woods -- you know, phone calls or text messages?
"I'm sure there will be text messages," Massa replied. "We bantered back and forth all the time," he said of his staffers. Massa may be gone, but it could be a while before he's forgotten.
Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.