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Massa hysteria is no laughing matter

It's been a hilarious few days watching former Rep. Eric Massa's (D-N.Y.) self-immolation. His recollections of groping and tickle fights with male congressional staffers on Glenn Beck's show (Fox) and his unwillingness to answer the "are you gay?" question from Larry King (CNN) last night have had folks giggling -- uncomfortably, nervously -- since last night. It's all too surreal. And all too sad. In the harsh light of morning, Massa is a pitiful figure who should seek professional help for a host of issues, particularly to understand the root of his sexually charged interactions with men.

"[Massa] was incoherent, inconsistent and in need of some serious media coaching," I tittered last night in my post, "Eric Massa did himself no favors on Glenn Beck." My friend Neil Giuliano, the former Republican mayor of Tempe, Ariz. (1994-2004) who recently stepped down as the president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), snatched me out of giggle mode. "A rather pathetic man," Giuliano wrote about Massa on my Facebook page. "[H]e needs a lot of professional help, and not of the media consultant variety. I hope he gets it."

Democratic strategist Bob Shrum on "The Ed Show" last night made a similar point. "This guy is a human train wreck. You watch him on television, you can't feel sorry for him because he's totally out of control," Shrum said. "He needs help. He's obviously lived a lie. And now he's told a series of lies." Actually, I do feel sorry for Massa. Issues of sexuality cause people to do the strangest things that they then try to rationalize away in their own minds. From former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-N.Y.) we've seen the consequences of sublimated feelings on both sides of the sexuality aisle.

But if Massa is dealing with issues of the closet my sympathies are with him. The closet forces people to build a wall of lies to protect their jobs or their families. And all the while they are being eaten away inside by the fear and mistrust their lies foster. The more Massa tries to explain publicly his interactions with men the worse he looks. For the sake of his family and his long-term health, I strongly suggest he try to explain everything privately -- to a superb and caring therapist.

By Jonathan Capehart  | March 10, 2010; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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It's not clear to me, now, that he's lived a lie. It depends on the understanding between he and his wife, I'd say. So far as I can tell, he hasn't gone around claiming to be heterosexual, the way Larry Craig etc. did. Nor has he come out loudly in favor of the government banning gay marriage, etc. In fact, he explicitly refused to claim that he wasn't gay. So where's the lie? Do we now insist that every heterosexual marriage be between two exclusively heterosexual people? Since when did we start doing that?

Posted by: jonawebb | March 10, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

The suggestion that Massa and his wife may have come to an "understanding" is not supported by the evidence. Any such "understanding" would be based upon a conscious awareness and discussion of the situation. Massa's incoherence in appearing before the media does not suggest that level of self-awareness and discussion of the issue.

Posted by: bobroehr | March 10, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I'll found myself feeling a bit sorry for him, but I too did not get the impression that he's living a lie -- that seems like a bit of armchair psychology. It seems to me that his explanation was correct, that he totally missed the idea of drawing a line between one's professional life and one's personal life. If I were going to speculate on his true problem, I'd wonder whether or not his drinking is in control. The kind of grab-assing that he explains is indeed prevalent in heterosexual friendships, but certainly not in heterosexual business relationships. Getting drunk and holding a male friend down and tickling him is something I've seen many times when I hang out with my friends from college and we're acting like we're still in college. I've never been in the military, but many of my friends who have report the same type of behavior. Obviously doing this to one's congressional chief of staff displays a loss of touch with reality, but I'm not sure the closet is the issue, especially since if he is in the closet, it's not as if he's crusading against gay rights or anything like that.

Posted by: justin_timberwolf | March 10, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

For conservatives sex is a political scandal. Oddly, in sex scandals, it is their politicians who remain in Office while liberals resign.
Tell me why.

Posted by: frankemerritt | March 10, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Massa has some serious repressed sexuality issues. I'm with you - I hope he gets some professional help.

Posted by: ZZim | March 10, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

The obvious lie is that he thinks "tickle fights" with underaged youth are acceptable. He's as messed up as Michael Jackson was on that count.

Posted by: AxelDC | March 10, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

One thing I've learned from my decades of marriage and also from watching several of my friends marriages dissolve or somehow hold together in spite of everything is not to judge, from the outside, what's going on. Massa might be out to his wife, or maybe she knows without him telling her, or possibly he has a drinking problem and horses around like we all did when we were kids. Who knows? We are not in a position to judge. We do know, however, that the guy does not seem to be a hypocrite and does not seem to have lied to either Glenn Beck or Larry King.

Posted by: jonawebb | March 10, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Jonathan feels sorry for Eric Massa? What a putdown- having a liberal give you sympathy. Had Massa not given aid and comfort to the enemy (Republicans, not Al-Quada) he would still be in as good standing with liberal Democrats as Rangel is. Eric Massa has always been Eric Massa but Democrats have only recently discovered that he is a little quirky.

Posted by: mhr614 | March 10, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I have had the same reaction as Capehart to the Eric Massa media saga! I especially felt badly for his family, plunging from pride of his election to Congress to the dispair of his resignation in essentially disgrace. Massa is obviously in serious need of professional health care! Learning of his background, it was amazing to me that he was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a retired U.S. Navy Commander, and then this? Simply very sad human tragedy!

Posted by: kemcb | March 10, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

The only thing Massa is guilty of is being ignorant to the fact that times have changed. Predatory creeps have made it neccessary to even regulate the behavior of individuals in the workplace. A person of authority in a workplace environment should know to be cautious and keep crude behavior in check. People should not have to be made feel uncomfortable or intimidated while doing their jobs. Even when living in a dormatory environment, respect for the individual should still apply. Massa should have known better! Glen Beck deserved to be made a fool of for trying to villainize Democrats over it.

Posted by: jeffersontao | March 10, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

He doesn't need a therapist, just like blacks before civil rights needed to 'talk it out' with someone. What he needs and needed and will continue to need is a just and fair society and government as far as sexual orientation is concerned. What he needs to do is come out completely, apologize and make amends to his wife, whom he never could have loved, and try to fight against those who imagine that gays like him and I would deserve anything less than full equality, and that our rightful rage is not the problem...hatred of homosexuality is.

Posted by: dominickantonucci | March 10, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Massa changed and reversed himself from everything he said during his Sunday’s radio show in Hornell, NY. He changed his corruption in government story, changed his bribes and coercion story, and changed his forced to resign by Rahm Emanuel, Pelosi, and Steny Hoyer story.

Did Obama, Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Rahm Emanuel force Massa to resign by discrediting and smearing him with sexual misconduct allegations? We still don’t know because Massa has now changed his story. We do know he is one less no vote against Obamacare. Now Pelosi is one vote closer.

Posted by: runmon | March 10, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

What are you talking about? There are no underaged youth involved in this story. There is a big difference between a page (Mark Foley) and a chief of staff (Massa). On a more positive note, at least he did not try to tickle Rahm Emmanuel -- I don't think that would have gone as well. (Loved Massa's line about how awkward it is to have an argument about politics with a naked man!)


The obvious lie is that he thinks "tickle fights" with underaged youth are acceptable. He's as messed up as Michael Jackson was on that count.

Posted by: AxelDC | March 10, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: justin_timberwolf | March 10, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

He out Becked Glen Beck.

Posted by: chucky-el | March 10, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

What all of these messed-up sexually harassing and/or cheating politicians have in common is that they are male! Elect more women to Congress and more actual work will get done with less scandal. Doesn't matter which side of the aisle you are on. Help get more women in office.

Posted by: conchfc | March 10, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I think the articles "take" on this is spot on.

The one thing not mentioned, however is the fitness of anyone holding public office to serve while having lapses of the sort Massa is demonstrating.

Of course that is why he is no longer in office, but let's face it, there are more like him serving who have yet to be exposed.

Posted by: BellsBlu2 | March 10, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Massa must be en route to becoming a Republican.... he's nutty enough to be right at home with the right-wingers.

Posted by: EdSantaFe | March 10, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I do not feel sympathy for Massa because he was willing to attack others with wild claims of political abuse of power in order to protect his past conduct. It appears to me that he was coming awfully close to saying that the charges were false and created to keep him from casting his vote against the Health Care Bill. He was willing to DESTROY OTHERS and RUN from his obligation to PUBLIC SERVICE in order to protect his secret. He needs professional help but he does not deserve our sympathy.He is a Flawed and Dangerous man.

Posted by: PamelaM1 | March 10, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

One more reason I admire Mr. Capehart. How often does a pundit apologize for being seduced by the easy, cheap shot of snarky comments? They're fun except when they're not, and I have to agree that the ex-Congressman looks more pathetic than laughable a day later. Good job, Jonathan.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | March 10, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

One more reason I admire Mr. Capehart. How often does a pundit apologize for being seduced by the easy, cheap shot of snarky comments? They're fun except when they're not, and I have to agree that the ex-Congressman looks more pathetic than laughable a day later. Good job, Jonathan.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | March 10, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Congressmen and their assistants and other charges have had problems with their sexuality for many years. The homosexual community has been in the background - in the closet - for many years. 2010 is no different. I remember in 1976 when I met a group of homosexuals who were working for a conservative Republican congressman from Florida. They were fine people, but when they partied I was amazed at the way they acted. I never had any intest in their lifestyle, but I have always accepted them as part of America.

I find it hard to understand why the rest of the country has such a hard time understanding what I have been observing for many years. Every American should see Philadelphia. It gives a little insight into the lives of the people who work in the halls of Congress and inhabit the closet in their free time.

Despite all the change, nothing really changes, does it?

Posted by: expat2MEX | March 10, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

If this guy had groped me I would have kicked him in the nuts. But then, I don't work for him, I'm not a young man trying to make the grade in some congressional office.

It's hard to care about this guy's problems, when you consider what he's done. How do we get beyond the fact that he put his paws on people who weren't interested in being pawed?

After this has been dealt with, maybe then we can feel sorry for this poof. Until then, too bad.

Posted by: barferio | March 10, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Another Democrat homosexual predator bites the dust. Freshman congressman, Democrat, homo, predator.

Posted by: screwjob11 | March 10, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

He may have problems with his sexuality but he's also a liar and the lies he told had absolutely nothing to do with his sexuality. Therefore I have no sympathy for him. He LIED and said Democrats and the White House were forcing him out - LIE!!! I would have more sympathy for him if it was just about his sexuality but to outright lie on the Democratic leadership and the White House and was willing to use a right wing talk and MSM shows to continue the lies. He only backed down when the truth came out. No sympathy for him but sympathy for his family who have to deal with him.

For all the posters who keep talking about his party affiliation he was a Republican for longer than he was a Democrat.

Posted by: rlj1 | March 10, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Massa is a goofball, but Rangel is crooked.

The wrong one was forced out of office.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | March 10, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

It's highly unusual for all of Washington to tell someone to stop talking... so I think he should continue.

He gave four different reasons over four days for his resignation and everyone including the media just pounded him for it. Why couldn't all four reasons be a part of why he resigned? Since when must a person have only one reason?

Posted by: blasmaic | March 10, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Therapists change their theories every five years if not more often, and not due to new evidence, but due to new social sensibilities.

Mo betta Massa takes counsel of his own life story and comes to terms with it. He's a man who likes men who identifies with people who are revolted by men who like men.

It's really not such an impossible conundrum to untangle.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | March 10, 2010 10:15 PM | Report abuse

"For conservatives sex is a political scandal. Oddly, in sex scandals, it is their politicians who remain in Office while liberals resign.
Tell me why."

Um, what? Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank, Gerry Studds.
Please point out the ones who resigned.

Posted by: bosszeroboss | March 11, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

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