Massa offers details; puts blame on Dem leaders for probe

The freshman Democrat, who is resigning Monday, also detailed the incident that sparked the ethics complaint against him, which involved a crude statement.

Massa (D-N.Y.) said his chief of staff alerted him about an ethics inquiry in early February, around the same time the language complaint was made, but said he thought it was about a fundraising letter.

Here is Massa's account of the incident, made on a New York radio station on which he hosts a weekly show:

On New Year’s Eve, I went to a staff party. It was actually a wedding for a staff member of mine. There were over 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."

He said that with three video cameras filming him, he danced with the bride and then the bridesmaid and did nothing inappropriate. Afterward, he sat down at a table with all of his staffers, all of whom were 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 and his points were clear and his words were far more colorful than that. And I grabbed the staff member sitting next to me and said, "Well, what I really ought to be doing is fracking you." And then tousled the guy’s hair and left, went to my room, because I knew the party was getting to a point where it wasn’t right for me to be there. Now was that inappropriate of me? Absolutely. Am I guilty? Yes.

Massa said that the staff member in question never said he felt uncomfortable, but that another staffer "who felt uncomfortable for him" was told about it and in turn went to the ethics panel.

"It was a third-party political correctness statement," Massa said.

The congressman disputed the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's (D-Md.) claim that its staff informed Massa's about the ethics complaint, which was confirmed Thursday, immediately after they were informed of the incident by a Massa aide .

According to his office, Hoyer told his staff to tell Massa that he or someone from his staff had to file a complaint with the ethics committee within 48 hours or that he would do it for him.

"Steny Hoyer has never said a single word to me ever. Not once," he said. "This is a lie. It's a blatant false statement."

Massa said that forcing him out of office would make it easier for the House Democratic leadership to pass healthcare reform legislation.

"This administration and this House leadership has said, quote-unquote, they will stop at nothing to pass this healthcare bill. And now they've gotten rid of me and it will pass. You connect the dots."

Massa opposed the healthcare bill in November because he believed its provisions were not strong enough to effect change in the health insurance industry.

He said that ethics committee rules that allow people who file complaints to remain anonymous have led to confusion.

"It's not like a normal court ... Anyone can accuse you of anything," he said.

Massa said he was told about ethics committee complaint after he announced his retirement because of cancer. The upstate New York lawmaker maintained that a recurrence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is the reason for his retirement, not the probe.

"At no point prior to this had any member of the ethics committee communicated with me directly. I first read about it on the internet," he said.

Cross-posted from the Briefing Room