Hoyer, White House Fire Back at Massa

Top Dem Calls Massa Claims "Absurd"

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Rep. Eric Massa is making more news on his way out of office than he did on his way in.

    House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says Rep. Eric Massa’s charge that he was pushed out of the House because of his opposition to the Democrats’ health care bill is “absurd” and “absolutely untrue.”

    In a radio interview Sunday, Massa – a Democrat from New York – said that he’s the deciding vote on health care reform and suggested that Democratic leaders had orchestrated his departure from the House in order to get him out of the way.

    “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,” Massa said. “You connect the dots.”

    Hoyer denied the charge in a session with reporters Tuesday morning. Visibly angry, the second-ranking House Democrat said it was “absolutely untrue… that there was any relationship between actions and the health care bill – period. Is anybody confused, do I need to clarify that?”

    Hoyer also quoted from Massa's resignation letter, in which Massa took blame for the ethics complaint.

    "I'll leave it at that," Hoyer said.

    Massa has been particularly harsh on Hoyer, claiming that Hoyer lied by claiming that he had talked with Massa about allegations that Massa sexually harassed a male staffer. But Hoyer never claimed that he’d spoken directly about the allegations – a point the majority leader reiterated Tuesday.

    “I did not talk to anybody individually — I want to make that very clear so you don’t misinterpret this,” Hoyer told reporters. “A Massa staffer talked to one of my staffers. When I heard the information, my staffers asked what to do. I believed the issues being raised sounded to me serious. I therefore said the appropriate venue for dealing with these issues was the ethics committee, and my staffer then conveyed that to Mr. Massa’s staffer and said that, if you don’t take action within 48 hours, we will.”

    “I never talked to Mr. Massa, he is now saying I lied [by saying that] I talked to him,” Hoyer said. “I didn’t lie, but he’s right I didn’t talk to him. He just read [media reports] and thought it implied that I talked to him. He said I didn’t talk to him, he’s accurate about that. And I didn’t say I talked to him.”

    Massa also attacked Rahm Emanuel during the radio interview, accusing the White House chief of staff of accosting him about President Barack Obama’s budget while both men were naked in the house gym.

    White House press secretary Robert Gibbs had harsh words for Massa Tuesday.

    "I think this whole story is ridiculous," he said during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” "Wednesday, it was having a recurrence of cancer. On Thursday, he was guilty of using ‘salty’ language. On Friday, we learned he's before the Ethics Committee."

    The ethics committee is investigating allegations of sexual harassment involving Massa, who announced Friday that he was resigning from the House.