Blow The Man Down: The Reputational Suicide of Representative Eric Massa (D-NY)

Blow The Man Down

The Reputational Suicide of Representative Eric Massa (D-NY)

All while painting the pugnacious White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s lobbying efforts as bullying, over the past few days, Eric Massa made good on his promises to not leave his seat quietly, and conducted series of mind-boggling media appearances. Mr. Massa, in explaining his resignation, cited a cancer diagnosis and political pressure to vote for health-care legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, along with aides’ harassment accusations.

There need not have been any “gotcha” questions. There need not have been any surprise witnesses or mere third parties to decimate the former representative’s reputation. Mr. Massa appeared to be making a desperate, transparent pitch at appearing definitely not homosexual.

In the audio clip from March 8 below, former Rep. Massa, while claiming that he was trying to make the radio show as family-oriented as possible, entered into anecdotes about his Navy days not so much as alarming, but striking for their total lack of necessity in safely contextualizing his resignation and aides’ accusations of physical and verbal abuse. Whatever one concludes about early ‘80s Navy hazing rituals, the truly bizarre implication is that, because these rituals were practiced among men living and working an environment of (ostensibly) enforced heterosexuality, somewhat similar practices are somehow less undesirable in the confines of Capitol offices, which the popular imagination holds are highly formal settings.

Over the last couple of days, media analysts have been pounding their heads trying to make heads or tails of his volunteering information about the hazing rituals, specifically running naked men through trash or having them stick their faces in the crotches of superiors. The representative would then disclose a tactless anecdote about having offered in jest to help one of his Naval bunkmates climax when Massa walked in on him masturbating.

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Aides’ sexual harassment charges came at the heel of an incident wherein Mr. Massa admitted, as he did yesterday on Glenn Beck’s show, to having “groped” aides during a tickle fight that eventually resulted in a multi-man pile-on. Curiously, within three hours, appearing on “Larry King Live,” he would deny having “groped” whatsoever.

Not wishing to take on the label of hypocrisy – especially in the wake of accusations against former Republican Representative Mark Foley (R-FL) having made sexual advances toward male pages – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) communicated to Rep. Massa that he had 48 hours to communicate his aides’ complaints to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. (In 2006 that top House Republicans had been aware of “overfriendly” e-mail messages Mr. Foley, who represented Palm Beach, had sent to a 16-year-old page, and did not speak against Foley publicly until more explicit text messages were revealed.) It is apparent that to one degree or another Mr. Foley’s actions would damage the Republican Party’s standing in Congress in 2006. It is especially important to understand the most serious of the allegations against Mr. Massa in the context of the Foley scandal.

The point of these particularly egregious examples of providing what seems like too much information remains mysterious. Mr. Massa would repeatedly claim that his outing was politically motivated, as he supports a single-payer health insurance program quite distinct from the legislation now under consideration by congressional leadership through a legislative budgetary process called reconciliation. Reconciliation runs around the filibuster rule requiring a 60-vote majority. The former representative claims that while in the congressional shower room, Mr. Emanuel, himself naked, approached Mr. Massa, and proceeded to browbeat him and poke him in the chest. The White House denies that the incident took place.

Of Mr. Emanuel himself, Mr. Massa would subsequently say during a radio show, “Rahm Emanuel is son of the devil’s spawn,” adding, “He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote. He would strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive.”


On both King and Beck’s shows, Massa would repeat what was apparently a joke apology to Emanuel, saying that the chief of staff would merely be willing to tie Mr. Massa’s children to rail tracks, as opposed to his own.

On “Larry King Live,” Mr. Massa refused to answer whether he was gay.