You’ve heard the old Elvis song “A Hunka Hunka Burning Love?” Today was a messa messa political mess for former Democratic Rep. Eric Massa, Republican conservatives who had earlier come out strongly to support him, and for broadcaster Glenn Beck who promised an hour long interview with Massa that would bust this town wide open — which proved to be merely a bust.
So much that Beck apologized at the end for wasting his viewers’ time.
One of the day’s biggest developments in this story was almost obscured by Beck’s political side show featuring Massa: it turned out that Massa has been under investigation for allegations that he is a serial male staffer groper.
And, so, by the end of the day, Massa wound up a Democrat who had literally vaporized bridges with his own party, angered the White House, and left conservatives who had embraced and touted him as a persecuted Democrat forced out to get health care reform passed feeling burned as well.
On the other hand, the two-day political saga did serve a purpose: it forever added to the political culture Massa’s verbal portrait of an unwanted, unwelcome, appetite-depriving image: that of a naked Rahm Emanuel and the Obama advisor’s “tush.” (Some imagery is best left unarticulated, thank you very much…) And, on Beck, Massa also nominated the word “tickling” as a substitute word for other things that might raise eyebrows and create legal issues.
The Washington Post piece about the investigation (link is above) is particularly damning:
Former representative. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) has been under investigation for allegations that he groped multiple male staffers working in his office, according to three sources familiar with the probe.
The allegations surrounding the former lawmaker date back at least a year, and involve “a pattern of behavior and physical harassment,” according to one source. The new claims of alleged groping contradict statements by Massa, who resigned his office on Monday after it became public that he was the subject of a House ethics committee investigation for possible harassment.
Massa had said that the allegations were limited to his use of “salty language” with his staff. He apologized for making some inappropriate comments and argued he was being unfairly vilified.
Days later, Massa accused the White House and Democratic congressional leaders of trying to oust him from office to improve their chances of passing health-care reform legislation — a charge that the House majority leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), called “absurd.”
Massa could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and no one answered the phone at his campaign office or at his home in Corning, N.Y., where he lives with his wife, Beverly, and a son and daughter. Staff at his former congressional offices declined to relay messages to him and said they did not know how to reach him.
A bit more:
According to two sources familiar with the probe, Massa’s former deputy chief of staff Ron Hikel provided the information about the staffers’ allegations to the House ethics committee three weeks ago. Hikel had earlier sought advice from Hoyer’s office about brewing internal complaints, the sources said, and had been urged to report the allegations to the committee.
Former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday evening that he groped a congressional staffer while he was in office, but he denied that it was a sexual incident.
“I tickled him until he couldn’t breathe, and then four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th birthday,” Massa said on conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s Fox News Channel show. He added, “You can take anything out of context.”
He denied that he did anything sexual or criminal with congressional staff.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Massa has been under investigation by the House ethics committee for allegedly groping male staffers working in his office.
Massa criticized the timing of the Post report, calling it “odd.”
It was clear Massa — and those who leaped at a chance to champion him because he was making allegations against the White House, Congressional Democrats and Rahm — was in big trouble earlier today when the AP ran this fact check piece about his “changing stories.”
Changing your version of what happened doesn’t help much (his only saving grace was that his account of a naked Emanuel wasn’t changed: he would have run into more trouble if he had changed that one to having involved Nancy Pelosi).
How badly did Massa fall in the space of just one day?
Earlier in the day some key conservatives had begun to distance themselves from Massa — conservatives that included talk radio maven Rush Limbaugh. Hot Air’s Allahpundit wrote before the Beck-Massa extravaganza:
A must-see, not only because of the potential for dirt-dishing about the Democratic caucus but to watch how Beck handles the clamor among righties that Massa can’t be trusted. It ain’t just Bob Lonsberry and the boss emeritus now: Rush Limbaugh dismissed Massa earlier today as a “legitimate kook” and the Standard warned this morning that its sources on the Hill say the ethics report will be damning. And no wonder.
….WaPo reported a few hours ago that the allegations date back at least a year and involve a “pattern of behavior.” Lonsberry also claimed to have heard of Massa touching at least two men inappropriately during his naval career — and that was before any of the congressional accusations surfaced. Shrewd move by House Democrats to get ahead of the news cycle and leak this stuff shortly before Massa sits down with Beck — doubtless the new groping claims will dominate the coverage of the interview afterward…
However, if that is indeed the investigation it’s relevant given Massa’s protestations that he was a victim of Democrats and a White House intent on forcing him out on a pretext so that health care reform could pass.
By the end of the day there were four certainties:
1. Massa’s credibility had eroded and he ended the day with fewer friends in both parties than he had just 24 hours earlier.
2. He’ll still be considered a good “get” for cable and TV shows but he’ll face tougher questioning since interviewers will want to ensure that they are not “had” by their “get.”
3. Beck most assuredly isn’t tickled by how his broadcast turned out. This has hurt his credibility and he will likely do more advance work in the future before announcing he has a show that’ll bust this town wide open.
4. Emanuel will turn the other cheek on reports that he intimidates people while in the nude.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.