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Ex-Rep. Eric Massa denies he sexually groped male staffer

By ANDREW MIGA, Associated Press

massa WASHINGTON -- Former Rep. Eric Massa, who resigned from Congress amid sexual harassment allegations, acknowledged Tuesday groping a staffer but described it as tickling, not sexual behavior.

"It doesn't make any difference what my intentions were, it's how it's perceived by the individual who receives that action," Massa, D-N.Y., said on conservative commentator Glenn Beck's Fox News Channel show. "I'm telling you I was wrong. I was wrong. ... My behavior was wrong. I should have never allowed myself to be as familiar with my staff as I was."

The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, reported Tuesday that the House ethics panel has been investigating allegations Massa groped multiple male staffers in his office. Massa has previously claimed his misconduct was limited to using inappropriate language with staffers.

Asked directly on Beck's program whether he sexually groped anyone, Massa replied: "No, no, no."

Massa, however, recalled tickling a staffer at a birthday party.

"Now they're saying I groped a male staffer," Massa said. "Yeah, I did. Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn't breathe and four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th birthday and it was kill the old guy."

Massa said his actions may have been misinterpreted.

"If somebody on my staff was offended, uncomfortable, thought I was inappropriate, I own that," Massa said. "It's why I resigned."

Massa has given different reasons over the past week for quitting his seat before completing his first term, including health worries, a House ethics probe and charges fellow Democrats pushed him out because he opposed their health care bill. Democrats deny the charge. He took a slightly different tack Tuesday.

"I wasn't forced out," he said. "I forced myself out."

Massa added he did not live up to his own personal code of conduct.

Massa, 50, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1996, defeated Republican Rep. Randy Kuhl in 2008 in a district long dominated by Republicans. He said his cancer returned in December.

Massa, who is married, is a 24-year retired Navy commander who served during the 1991 U.S.-Iraq war and later was special assistant to Gen. Wesley Clark during the conflict in Bosnia. His cancer diagnosis forced him and his family back to the U.S. for treatment. He spent his last year in the Navy as a cancer outreach advocate and later took a professional staff job with the House Armed Services Committee.

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It's always the lie, the cover-up, the hypocrisy, not the behavior itself that bothers people. Clinton diddled everything he could get his hands on in a dress and he wasn't forced out of office and Barney Franks' been clear about his gayness from day one. Who cares? If this was innocent, frat-boy like behavior,as Massa asserts, than why is he resigning. The whole thing smells like a rat. This story's not over. Let's hear from the gropee!!

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