(AFP) — It’s a terrifying image transfixing Washington: President Barack Obama’s bruising enforcer Rahm Emanuel, naked, in a communal shower, berating a congressman over perceived political cowardice.
The legend of Emanuel, revered as a master of the US capital’s dark arts by allies and foes alike, is being further embroidered by a tour-de-force of score settling by resigning Democratic lawmaker Eric Massa.
Massa, a former navy commander and cancer survivor, has given a series of evolving reasons for his departure, and resigned suddenly this week facing harassment allegations from a former male staffer.
Washington is notorious as a town of naked partisanship, but Massa raised eyebrows several notches with his account of Emanuel’s conduct.
In his most colourful parting shot, on a radio show on Sunday, he accused the White House chief of staff of cornering him at the locker room of the House of Representatives gym and hammering him for failing to back Obama’s budget.
“Rahm Emanuel is the son of the devil’s spawn,” Massa said. “He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote.”
Massa, who is considered a liberal, said he had been standing in the gym “showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel … poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me.
“Do you know how awkward it is to have a political argument with a naked man?”
Massa, who formally resigned on Monday, also alleged that he had been pushed out of Congress because he opposed Obama’s signature health care bill, which is struggling to make its way off Capitol Hill.
The White House on Tuesday dismissed the claims by Massa, a one-term congressman from New York, as “crazy allegations”.
“I think this whole story is ridiculous. I think the latest excuse is silly and ridiculous,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told ABC, and accused Massa of giving a string of contradictory reasons for his departure.