Massa on King: 'I don't have the energy to fight everyone all the time'
By Scott Butterworth
Former Rep. Eric Massa reversed himself Tuesday night, saying that "it is not true" that he had groped congressional staffers, hours after he told a different cable TV interviewer, "Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn't breathe."
Massa's 30-minute appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live" was his second of the evening, and he said it would be his last time to address the media before returning to private life.
The former congressman told King that he was unaware that former deputy chief of staff Ron Hikel had taken allegations of Massa's improper conduct to the House ethics committee.
Hikel "never said a word to me" about his concerns, Massa said, and the news that he had gone to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office about them "breaks my heart."
"This is a man as close to me as my father. For 40 years we were close friends," Massa said, adding, "This is what happens when you trust people."
King asked whether he would talk now to Hikel about the matter, but Massa demurred, saying, "I won't call him."
King pressed about whether Massa was curious about what his former aide had said or thought. The former congressman replied, "I'm more than curious, and I hope someday we'll talk about it. I hope he'll call me. ... I don't have his number."
Massa called a question about whether he was gay "insulting," and told King he would not answer that.
And when a caller from Elizabeth City, N.C., asked Massa why he had given so many different reasons for leaving the House, Massa replied that all were true.
Massa has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and he said Tuesday night that his health was the main reason for his departure. His conduct as a congressman was the second reason, he said, and his treatment by Democratic leaders was a contributing factor.
"I can't answer this in a sound bite," Massa said. He added, "I don't have the energy to fight everyone all the time."
March 9, 2010; 9:46 PM ET
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