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Eric Massa's naked politics

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 10, 2010; 9:53 AM

Not since the Alfred Hitchcock movie "Psycho" has there been such a famous shower scene.

In the course of slamming Rahm Emanuel as the "son of the devil's spawn," among other choice epithets, the just-resigned congressman Eric Massa recounted this made-for-Hollywood confrontation: "I am showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me."

Now you've got to understand, our lives here in Washington are on the dull side. We have to deal with matters such as subcommittee hearings, reauthorizations and reconciliation. A leaked memo is our idea of a good time. So the image of a naked chief of staff doing in-the-buff badgering is hot stuff by Beltway standards. (The White House is denying the incident.)

I must say, this obscure former Democratic congressman has been as slippery as a bar of soap. He was, you may recall, under investigation by the House ethics committee. He said he wouldn't run for reelection because his cancer had returned. Then, when news of the ethics probe surfaced, he said he would quit immediately. Then he blamed the Democrats for orchestrating his departure because he planned to vote against the health-care bill. (How exactly could they do that? No one can force out a sitting member except by an expulsion vote.)

At midday, the Massa mess took another bizarre turn with this WP scoop:

"Former Rep. 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."

So it was more -- allegedly -- than what Massa described as "salty language."

To put it mildly, Massa has been all over the map. And then he went on Glenn Beck.

It was the most bizarre hour of television in a long time, with Beck pressing for details and Massa outrambling Beck. Massa said he quit on his own, that he wasn't forced out by Democratic leaders, and that he wasn't intimidated by Rahm after all.

And those harassment allegations? "Now they're saying I groped a male staffer," he told Beck. "Yeah, I did. Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn't breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th birthday. It was 'kill the old guy.' "

Yes, he pleaded guilty to tickling.

Beck seemed increasingly bewildered, especially when Massa launched into a pitch for campaign finance reform. Finally, Beck declared the interview a failure and apologized to America for wasting its time. Not something you see every day.


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