UPDATE: Former House Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) has been investigated over allegations he groped "multiple male staffers" in Congress, contradicting his earlier claims that the allegations sprang only from his use of "salty language," the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The allegations surrounding the former lawmaker date back at least a year, and involve "a pattern of behavior and physical harassment," according to one source. The new claims of alleged groping contradict statements by Massa, who resigned his office on Monday after it became public that he was the subject of a House ethics committee investigation for possible harassment...
According to two sources familiar with the probe, Massa's former deputy chief of staff Ron Hikel provided the information about the staffers' allegations to the House ethics committee three weeks ago. Hikel had earlier sought advice from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office about brewing internal complaints, the sources said, and had been urged to report the allegations to the committee.
Writing on his True/Slant blog, Michael Roston notes that the claims of physical harrassment by Massa came hours before an airing of Glenn Beck on Fox News featuring the former House representative. Massa, a Democrat, became an unlikely hero of Beck's when he alleged that the Democratic leadership forced him out of office because of his opposition to health care reform.
Beck's producers are going to "need some Tums," Roston quips.
ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS BELOW
During an appearance on Good Morning America Tuesday morning, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that there is no truth to the allegations that Democratic leadership forced Rep. Eric Massa to resign because he wouldn't vote for health care reform.
"I think this whole story is ridiculous. I think the latest excuse is silly and ridiculous," Gibbs said. "We're focused not on crazy allegations but instead on making this system work for the American people rather than insurance companies."
On his last day as a US congressman, Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) blasted White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Democratic leaders for allegedly conspiring to remove him from Congress. He also addressed allegations that he harassed a male aide, admitting his actions were "inappropriate."
The White House spokesman referred to Massa's admission that he "grabbed [a] staff member sitting next to [him at a wedding] and said, ‘Well, what I really ought to be doing is frakking you,'" after first only copping to using "salty language": "I think clearly his actions appear to be in the appropriate venue in the Ethics Committee to look at."
A GMA article further quotes Gibbs:
"The president has confidence in each and every person that works here," Gibbs said today. "The president is not focused on palace intrigue. ... He wants us to focus on getting something done for the American people, getting health care reform through Congress, focusing on the economy and getting jobs coming back here to this country."
ABC News' Senior Political Reporter Rick Klein agrees with the White House that the charges sound outlandish, but he offers some caution.
In an analysis posted at The Note, Klein writes, "Self-contradicting, borderline paranoid ramblings need not necessarily be taken seriously, even when uttered by someone who, until now, held a seat in Congress -- or who was part of Rahm Emanuel’s crop of 'Fightin’ Dems' back in 2006 (They got the fighting part right.)."
But the difficulty for Democrats is that Massa’s conspiracy theories take on just a whiff of believability after deals so famous that they instantly earned nicknames.
And in Emanuel, Massa is naming a scapegoat who was vulnerable even fully clothed, in a town that’s in a scapegoating mood at the moment. This is a (shower?) curtain the White House didn’t need lifted this week.
Context just might make this bigger than it would otherwise be: “Conservatives have complained about other examples of what they see as illegitimate deal-making to secure votes: what they call the ‘Cornhusker Kickback’ and the ‘Louisiana Purchase’ in the Senate to line up Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), respectively, and Obama's appointment last week of a Utah professor -- the brother of Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), an opponent of the health bill -- to the federal appeals bench,” Paul Kane writes in The Washington Post.
“He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote,” Massa said of the White House chief of staff, which takes on more meaning you realize that he also called Rahm “the son of the devil’s spawn.”
This video is from ABC's Good Morning America, broadcast March 9, 2010.