Rep. Eric Massa Had More Than Tickle Fights With His Navy Subordinates. He Preyed On Them

Ever since his resignation just two days ago, we’ve learned oh so much about former Rep. Eric Massa, the New York Democrat. What started as his use of “salty language” and “hair tussling” around male aides has turned into “tickle fights” and allegations of physical harassment dating back at least a year. And while Massa refuses to acknowledge whether he is gay, his own story is being told for him. Namely, that sometimes during his twenty-year Marine career, he felt obliged to use his positions of seniority to get handsy with subordinates.

Speaking with Massa’s old Navy shipmates, The Atlantic‘s Joshua Green learns the disgraced official was “notorious” for his behavior.

According to Peter Clarke, a Navy shipmate, Massa was notorious for making unwanted advances toward subordinates. He tells the story of his friend Stuart Borsch, with whom Massa shared a hotel room while on leave during the first Gulf War. “Stuart’s at the edge of the bed,” Clarke says Borsch told him at the time, “and [Massa] starts massaging him. Massa said, ‘You’ll have to get one of my special massages.’ He called them ‘Massa Massages.’” Ron Moss, a Navy shipmate and Borsch’s roommate, confirmed that Borsch told him this story at the time.

Borsch, now a history professor at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, didn’t addresss that specific incident, but did confirm to me in an email that he was groped by Massa: “In 1990, aboard the U.S.S. Jouett, I was awakened when a senior officer, Lt. Commander Massa, seemed to be groping me. (I was a lieutenant at the time.) I believe he may have been drinking. I shouted at him and he left. I mentioned the incident to several other officers. I did not officially report it.”

Clarke says that Massa’s roommate, Tom Maxfield was also assaulted. “Tom lived on upper bunk,” Clarke say. “When you’re on ship, you’re almost exhausted 24-7. So a lot of times you sleep with your uniform on. Tom and Massa shared a stateroom together. Massa climbed up on the top of his bunk, which is hard to do–you never crawl up on somebody else’s bunk. He wakes up to Massa undoing his pants trying to snorkel him.”

Why didn’t they report him?

Massa’s shipmates didn’t turn him in for fear that he would retaliate. “He was a cocky guy, competent, but he saw himself as a future admiral,” Moss told me. “It doesn’t surprise me he wound up in Congress.” When news of Dickert’s dispute with Massa appeared in the Rochester, New York, Democrat-Chronicle in 2006, several of Massa’s former shipmates considered coming forward.

We may never know what’s going on in Massa’s head now, or what he was thinking during his Navy career, but this has all the markings of a repressed man struggling with his sexuality, or at least being forced to mostly hide it in public corridors. We’re not even sure how much the military’s ban on gays serving is a factor here. (Before 1993’s DADT, there was an outright ban on any gay service.) Sure, if Massa is gay, the policy would have kept him in the closet. But freed from the military’s constraints, he still never came out, and continued his menacing behavior in Washington D.C., where he held even more power.

As we criticize closeted men of the cloth inside the Catholic Church for being sexually repressed operators hiding behind the cross, so too must we identify Massa for what he is: A predator.

Massa’s story continues to grow worse, and weirder, by the day. Let the story end here, and these “unwanted advances” and “unsolicited touching” remain the worst things in his shameful portfolio. Please.. We do not want to hear the R-word.

UPDATE: The House Ethics Committee’s investigation into Massa is over, namely because he’s no longer a member of the House.

EARLIER: Rep. Eric Massa Is Gay. C’mon, Let’s Face It

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  • Gobear

    This jackass is going to sink efforts to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. All the Rethugs need to do is point to Massa’s creepy advances and say, “See, this sis what gays in the military do!”

  • asa1973

    @Gobear: Or…we could say “See, this is what CLOSETED gays in the military do.”

  • Cam

    I don’t think so Gobear, it’s because of DADT that idiots like him AREN’T kicked out. right now, if somebody HAD reported him all he had to say is “No, they made advances to me and I brushed them off and now they are mad”. Then the military has two people, each accusing the other of being gay so they drop the matter. If being gay couldn’t get you kicked out, guys like this Massa wouldn’t have anything to threaten the other guy with to keep them quiet.

  • Duffy the Beer-Drinker

    First, remember there’s a lot of bullsh*t politics going on here too, so we’ll probably hear 150% of the story before it’s all out in the wash.

    But hold on everybody…why is it that ANY homoeroticism is now automatic confirmation that a straight dude HAS HAS HAS to be gay? Isn’t it worth pointing out that as long as sexual behavior defines one’s identity, there will continue to be ‘otherness’ and shame associated with a minority sexuality in a heteronormative society? You hear a lot of people pulling out the Kinsey scale when they think it’s hot, but if you really believe in a sexual spectrum these accusations are both groundless and harmful to Massa and bonifide homos everywhere.

    Strikes me as just another moment of self-defeating idiocy in our very incoherent gay ‘community.’ What do you think causes ‘gay panic?’ The idea that if you touch the gay you’ll get infected is only reinforced when a public figure with curiously queer moments is met by crowds demanding he sacrifice his identity to make things easy for them. Why do we need the same f**king gay/straight binary we have to confront every day?

    Instead, why don’t we take him at his word? If he says he’s straight he’s straight; and if you want to judge him for being queer every now and again, then save your worst for the straight men who do drag, the bisexuals who don’t date women or the ‘straight-acting’ gay guy who apparently needs to queen it up to your fierce standards.

    There must be at least one reader who can attest to playing around with a guy who didn’t identify as gay, right? and which would you choose: a world with zero expectation or zero experimentation? I find the type of sexuality/identity that’s not absolute or deterministic more accurate to people’s real lives, and encouragingly progressive. My guess about Massa is he’s a guy who was raised when there were no homo options, so he grew up straight and like many other straight men considered homoerotic humor both normal and “no homo.” He served in the Navy (which Churchill claimed was held together by ‘rum, sodomy and the lash’), maybe fooled around once or twice but prob. stuck with the jay-jay, and now feels content to remain mostly straight but with a little lace on his doily.

    The stories I’m hearing aren’t shocking as much as random coming from a Democrat–the party that DOESN’T keep their queers in chains. Besides, there is no Kinsey scale–just a circle with the word QUEER written in the middle.

  • Duffy the Beer-Drinker

    Whoops, wrong window, meant this for the “Rep. Eric Massa Won’t Say If He’s Gay. Which Means He So Is” post.

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