After resigning his House seat on Tuesday, Ex-Congressman Eric Massa appears to be suffering from a case of “situational apologia” as he made his way through the gauntlet of cable news programs this week. “Situational apologia” is not really a term, but a phrase I just pulled out of thin air — which seems to be apropos in light of Massa’s recent media appearances, where he seems to be making up different excuses for different news programs as he goes along. The bizarre episodes in which the former Republican turned Democratic Congressman has tried to defend himself against allegations of inappropriately groping male staffers have befuddled everyone from the White House to the unlikely allies he found, at least for twenty four hours, in Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.
In less than three days, Eric Massa went from possible cancer victim to possible conspiracy target as he sought to defend himself against sexual harassment allegations brought by Ron Hikel and two other staffers. Initially, Massa announced that he was retiring for health issues because of cancer. He is a survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Then he changed his tune, saying that he quit to avoid an ethics investigation into the alleged groping of multiple male staffers working in his office. Finally, in yet another plot twist, he asserted that his party was pushing him out of office because he was one of 39 House Democrats against the healthcare bill. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called the charges “ridiculous.” The House Ethics Committee announced that because they no longer had any jurisdiction over Massa, the case was now closed.
Glenn Beck appeared to embrace Eric Massa after he claimed that he argued with a nude Rahm Emmanuel in the congressional gym showers — even though the combative politician was the subject of a recent House ethics committee investigation into allegations Massa groped several males on his staff. Beck granted the ex-congressman an hour as a guest on his FOX News talk show to tell his side of the story. Rush Limbaugh quickly hailed him as a hero on his radio show. But when Massa actually appeared on The Glenn Beck Show, he quickly lost his luster to the right wing.
During the interview, the ex-congressman often brought to mind one of the many fast talking wise guy roles Hollywood actor Joe Pesci plays as he rambled erratically between far-fetched excuses, wild-eyed accusations, and oddly worded admissions.
Massa, who served less than one term before resigning, is now coming under increasing scrutiny as reporters begin to dig into his past. The Atlantic’s Josh Green reports that Massa was “notorious for making unwanted advances toward subordinates” during his 20-year Naval career. Green attempted to contact several of Massa’s former shipmates — one of them, Stuart Borsch, who is now a history professor, told Green via email that he was groped by the ex-congressman. “In 1990, aboard the U.S.S. Jouett, I was awakened when a senior officer, Lt. Commander Massa, seemed to be groping me.”
The one group of people who have made the most sense of Massa’s peculiar method of entertaining himself and his subordinates are late night comedians, who wasted no time working new material about the beleaguered former New York congressman into their acts. Jay Leno quipped on his show, “what is it with these New York congressman? If it’s not Charlie Rangel reaching into your wallet, its Eric Massa reaching into your pants.
The House voted Thursday on a resolution by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn to end debate on a privileged resolution introduced Rep. John Boehner (R), passing Clyburn’s resolution by a 401-1 vote, a measure seen as a signal to the ethics committee to reopen the Massa investigation.