By TIM GRIEVE | 3/8/10 6:04 AM EST
Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) says the House ethics committee is investigating him for inappropriate comments he made to a male staffer on New Year's Eve and that he's the victim of a power play by Democratic leaders who want him out of Congress because he's a "no" vote on health care reform.
"Mine is now the deciding vote on the health care bill," Massa, who on Friday announced his intention to resign, said during a long monologue on radio station WKPQ. "And this administration and this House leadership have said, quote-unquote, they will stop at nothing to pass this health care bill. And now they've gotten rid of me, and it will pass. You connect the dots."
A spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) rejected Massas charge out of hand.
"That's completely false, said Katie Grant. There is zero merit to that accusation."
Massa insisted that he did not know the basis of a House ethics committee investigation into his conduct until after he announced his retirement last Wednesday, and he took Hoyer to task for going public with information related to the probe before it is completed.
In the monologue an audio recording of which has been posted by Rochester's WHAM-TV Massa said he first heard that the ethics committee was questioning his staff in early February but had no idea why.
He said he now understands the basis of the committee's investigation and dismissed it as a matter of "political correctness" gone awry.
"I have to come find out that on New Year's Eve, I went to a staff party it was actually a wedding for a staff member of mine," Massa said. "There were 250 people there. I was with my wife, and in fact we had a great time. She got the stomach flu, I went down to sing "Auld Lang Syne." And with cameras on me I'm talking three of them filming me, I danced with the bride, and I danced with the bridesmaid. Absolutely nothing occurred.
"I said goodnight to the bridesmaid. I sat at down at the table where my whole staff was, all of them, by the way, bachelors. One of them looked at me and as they would do after, I don't know, 15 gin and tonics and goodness only knows how many bottles of champagne a staff member made an intonation to me that maybe I should be chasing after the bridesmaid. His points were clear, and his words were far more colorful than that.
"And I grabbed the staff member sitting next to me and I said, 'What I really ought to be doing is frakking you,' and then tossled the guy's hair and left, went to my room, because I knew the party was getting to a point where I shouldn't be there."
"Was that inappropriate of me? Absolutely."
A Massa aide has told POLITICO that the New York Democrat has been engaged in inappropriate behavior for eight months.