Politicos on the Hill are hyperventilating about revelations that Rep. Eric Massa, a New York Democrat who yesterday announced his retirement due to a reoccurrence of life-threatening cancer, allegedly sexually harassed a young male staffer. Dems – and maybe they know more about Massa’s sex life than I do, especially since he denied the allegations – seemed to panic. “Massa just killed us,” an anonymous top Democrat told the New York Daily News. “It’s like what [Mark] Foley did to [the GOP] in the last cycle.”
Everyone needs to take a big, calming breath. Here are five reasons why Massa is not former Republican Rep. Mark Foley, a Florida Republican who abruptly quit in 2006 after news leaked he’d been sex-stalking House Page boys online. Many Republicans blame the scandal Foley provoked for their losses of the House and Senate in the 2006 elections as social conservative voters stayed home in disgust.
1) Massa’s staff complaint was referred to the Ethics Committee and is under investigation. Foley caused House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s downfall because evidence came out that Hastert’s office knew about the indiscretions and worked to cover them up. Even if it turns out that Massa grossly abused his position of power, Dems can argue that the Ethics Committee was on the case: there is no cover up.
2) The staffer, while reportedly young, isn’t an underage teen entrusted for a semester to Congress for their education and safekeeping.
3) Massa’s resignation wasn’t due to these allegations – he has what could be terminal cancer. That, frankly, seems like a much more compelling reason to quit than a complaint, as Massa put it, for his “salty language.”
4) Massa was a freshman – barely in office for 14 months. He wasn’t a powerful member of the leadership – at the time of his resignation six-term Foley was chief deputy whip.
5) Massa’s a Democrat and not held up to the same “family values” standards that Republicans hold themselves up to. Those standards make even the rumors of homosexual affairs deadly (Larry Craig, Mark Foley), whereas Barney Frank survived his scandal. Foley was also the ultimate hypocrite: as Chairman of the House caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, he authored the “Child Modeling Exploitation Prevention Act of 2002” to outlaw web sites featuring sexually suggestive images of preteen children, saying that “these websites are nothing more than a fix for pedophiles.