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Ex-House member defends himself

Democrat who quit denies sexual harassment

WASHINGTON – A day after resigning his seat in the face of a House ethics investigation, former U.S. Rep. Eric Massa took to the airwaves Tuesday to deny that he had ever touched a male office staffer in a sexual manner.

Massa, D-N.Y., has been the subject of a probe over allegations of sexual harassment of his staff. He resigned his seat late Monday and went on the Glenn Beck television program Tuesday to defend himself and deny new allegations that he had “groped” a staffer.

“I did nothing sexual,” Massa said in a rambling interview. “I did things that were wrong.”

Massa, 50, said he had “tickled” a staff member at a birthday party “until he couldn’t breathe.” Earlier, he had said that he had tousled the hair of a staff member at a wedding and had made remarks about sex.

The interview – at the end of which Beck said, “America, I have wasted your time” – capped a bizarre five days that saw the first-term congressman offer varying explanations for his decision to quit.

As the allegations surfaced last week, Massa declared that he would not run for re-election because of health concerns. He later said he would resign immediately as rumors about his behavior swirled.

Over the weekend, Massa took a more defiant stance, suggesting the ethics investigation had been orchestrated by House Democratic leaders because he voted against their version of the health care overhaul.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., vehemently denied that Tuesday. “That’s absurd,” he said.