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Hoyer Rejects Massa Allegations as ‘Absurd’

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) strongly rejected claims by former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) that Democratic leaders forced him from office over his opposition to their health care reform effort.

“That’s absurd,” Hoyer told reporters Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “It’s absolutely untrue. Absolutely, definitively untrue.”

Hoyer was drawn into the Massa controversy after he acknowledged last week that he learned of allegations that Massa sexually harassed male staff back in early February. Massa, a freshman, resigned his seat Monday night but has ignited his story into a national firestorm by accusing Hoyer of lying about how he dealt with the sexual harassment charges — and charging Democratic leaders with drumming up the scandal to sideline him.

The White House likewise fired back at Massa on Tuesday, with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dismissing his comments as “ridiculous” and “crazy.”

“I think this whole story is ridiculous. I think the latest excuse is silly and ridiculous,” Gibbs said on “Good Morning America.” “We’re focused not on crazy allegations but instead on making this system work for the American people rather than insurance companies.”

Hoyer on Tuesday stood by the timeline his office released last Wednesday when the story first erupted: that a Massa staffer tipped off a Hoyer aide to the allegations, and the Majority Leader’s staff then looped in Hoyer. According to this timeline, Hoyer instructed his staff to inform Massa’s staff that the office had 48 hours to bring the matter to the ethics committee, or Hoyer’s office would do so.

Massa charged Hoyer with lying about the response, noting that he never talked to Hoyer directly about the allegations. But Hoyer on Tuesday chalked that up to a misunderstanding. “My staff talked to his staff,” he said. “He said I didn’t talk to him, and he’s accurate on that. And I didn’t say I talked to him.”

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