WASHINGTON - New York Democratic Rep. Eric Massa, facing a harassment complaint by a male staffer, said Friday that he is stepping down from his seat with "a profound sense of failure."
"I am guilty," Massa said in an interview with a Corning, N.Y., newspaper columnist.
Later in the day, Massa released a statement saying that after learning he had a recurrence of cancer, he learned he was the subject of an ethics complaint by a male staffer who felt "uncomfortable" during an exchange with Massa. The exchange reportedly had sexual overtones.
"I will resign my position," Massa said in the statement. "There is no doubt in my mind that I did in fact, use language in the privacy of my own home and in my inner office that, after 24 years in the Navy, might make a chief petty officer feel uncomfortable," Massa added.
Earlier Friday, a visibly upset Massa said he didn't want to put his family through the rigors of an ethics committee investigation.
"It would tear us apart," Massa said, according to Joe Dunning, a columnist for The Leader newspaper. "It's not that I can fight or beat these allegations, I'm guilty." The resignation takes effect Monday.
Massa's departure is good news for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's effort to advance a troubled health care overhaul. Massa had voted against it. His departure reduces the majority she needs for passage to 216.
Massa's acknowledgment of inappropriate behavior comes as the House's majority Democrats struggle with ethics matters among their own ranks despite promising to clean up Congress when they came to power. Massa was elected in 2008, defeating Republican Rep. Randy Kuhl.