House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters earlier today that he never talked to former Rep. Eric Massa about any ethics allegation, after Massa accused Hoyer of lying about the matter.
“My staff talked to his staff,” Hoyer said today.
But it appears that the back-and-forth between the two arose after Massa read an Associated Press article that incorrectly reported Hoyer’s original statement on the issue.
While this doesn’t change Massa’s broader charge of a plot by Democratic leaders to force him out of Congress, it’s worth looking at how the Hoyer-Massa dispute developed:
On March 3, the day Massa announced he would not seek reelection, Hoyer released a statement that explained what Hoyer did after hearing about the harassment allegations in February:
Mr. Hoyer instructed his staff that if Mr. Massa or his staff did not bring the matter to the attention of the bipartisan Ethics Committee within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer would do so. Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa’s staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations.
No where in the statement did Hoyer claim that he personally spoke to Massa.
But an AP article published the next day, March 4, paraphrased Hoyer’s statement this way: “Hoyer directed Massa to report the allegations to the House Ethics Committee within 48 hours.”
During his radio show Sunday, Massa read from that AP article, then angrily denounced Hoyer for lying about talking to Massa — even though Hoyer had never actually made that claim.
“Here I read,” Massa began, quoting from the article, “‘House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Wednesday that he was told the week of February 8 by a staff member in Massa’s office about allegations of misconduct. Hoyer directed Massa to report the allegations to the House Ethics Committee within 48 hours.’ Steny Hoyer has never said a single word to me not ever not once. Not a word. This is a lie. It’s a blatant false statement.”
In the following days, Hoyer’s office said that Massa’s charge was baseless. And today Hoyer himself said he never talked to Massa. Which, of course, he had never claimed in the first place.
(Additional reporting by Brian Beutler.)