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Rahm Emanuel controversy: White House fights image of turmoil

Is White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel a shrewd tactician or an official who should get the boot? The competing story lines have spun out in the press. Now, his name is also coming up in the mess involving just-resigned Rep. Eric Massa.

In this January 9, 2009, photo, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs check their BlackBerry devices as Rahm Emanuel listens at right while President-elect Barack Obama spoke during a news conference in Washington.

Charles Dharapak/AP/File

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The media have long been fascinated by Rahm Emanuel.

Whether as a young but senior staffer in the Clinton White House, a member of the House leadership, and now chief of staff in the Obama White House, Mr. Emanuel has always been the take-no-prisoners politico about whom no story seems too far-fetched.

Enter Eric Massa, the just-resigned Democratic member of Congress who claimed, on his way out the door, that Emanuel confronted him in the shower at the House gym for not supporting President Obama’s policies. Mr. Massa also claimed that Democratic leaders forced him out of Congress because he opposed healthcare reform. House majority leader Steny Hoyer called Massa’s accusation “absurd.” (For more on Massa's departure, click here.)

On Fox News’s “Glenn Beck” show late Tuesday afternoon, Massa said that, in fact, he was not “forced out.” He said he “forced himself out.” “I failed,” he said. “I didn’t live up to my own codes.”

The White House broke its silence on the matter Tuesday morning, when spokesman Robert Gibbs declared on ABC that “the whole story is ridiculous.”

According to The Washington Post, allegations against Massa that he sexually harassed a male staffer verbally now include alleged physical harassment of multiple male staffers. In his Fox appearance, Massa described tickle fights with staffers but said he “did nothing sexual.”

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