"Beginning in March 2009 ... male staffers complained that their boss touched them in a sexual manner, came up with reasons to have staffers travel alone with him on overnight trips and expressed a desire to have sex with men working in the office."
So writes The Washington Post's Carol Leonnig about disgraced Rep. Eric Massa. In her report, the New York Democrat comes off as an out-of-control sexual predator who conducted a year-long reign of terror on junior staffers in his Capitol Hill office, beginning right after he took his oath. It took a year for him to be outed and ousted.
Apparently, Massa propositioned his own chief of staff, Joe Racalto, who told Leonnig that "he tried in the fall of 2009 to bloc Massa from being alone with young male staffers and demanded that he move out of a townhouse he shared with staff members. He (Racalto) confirmed that he pulled Massa out of a Dupont Circle bar in December when he could not get the lawmaker to stop making inappropriate comments to a 21-year-old intern and another male staffer."
According to the Post, the final straw came when Massa, at a reception after the funeral of a Marine who had died in Afghanistan, propositioned the bartender.
A sordid, sad tale. Sordid because Massa abused his power to intimidate young men into yielding to his appetites; sad because his compulsion destroyed a family and life. For Massa, a graduate of Annapolis, had served 24 years in the Navy, ending as staff officer to Gen. Wesley Clark at Southern Command and NATO before his election to the House.
And the Post story raises troubling questions.
How, with Capitol Hill a hothouse of rumor and gossip, and the homosexual community in Washington wired, could Massa's outrages have gone unnoticed or unreported to the House leadership for a year, when his own staff was trying to corral Eric Massa within weeks of his taking office? How could the leadership not have heard reports of the intimidation, the advances, the gropings?
More serious than the dereliction of the Democratic House is the issue of how Massa lasted 24 years in the Navy, many of them aboard ship, without being outed as a predator. Joshua Green of The Atlantic discovered, with a few phone calls, that "Massa was notorious for making unwanted advances toward subordinates."
Had Massa's victims on Capitol Hill and the Navy been young women, would he have gotten away with this for a quarter of a century?