In an 8,000-word Esquire story about disgraced former New York congressman Eric Massa, writer Ryan D'Agostino doesn't once ask the man accused of getting in tickle fights with his young staffers, sexually harassing male colleagues, and attempting to "snorkel" fellow Navy servicemen whether he is gay. In fact, the elephant in the room — these allegations that led to a public inquiry by the House Ethics Committee, the same process that led Massa to resign — aren't even really discussed, disappointingly. (That Massa's wife, Beverly, makes a mean homemade pizza, though, gets its own paragraph.) And the story is called "Eric Massa's Secret!" Turns out the secret has nothing to do with his sexuality, but is actually a notable conspiracy theory.
From D'Agostino's notes on how the story came about:
Earlier in the year, long before the allegations had been made public, Massa had called me with a potentially huge story: Four retired generals — three four-stars and one three-star — had informed him, he said, that General David Patraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, had met twice in secret with former vice president Dick Cheney. In those meetings, the generals said, Cheney had attempted to recruit Petraeus to run for president as a Republican in 2012 ... The generals had told him, and Massa had agreed, that if someone didn't act immediately to reveal this plot, American constitutional democracy itself was at risk. Massa and I had had several conversation on the topic, each more urgent than the last. He had gone to the Pentagon, he told me, demanding answers. He knew the powerful forces that he was dealing with, he told me. They'd stop at nothing to prevent the truth from coming out, he said, including destroying him. "I told the official, 'If I have to get up at a committee hearing and go public with this, it will cause the mother of all shitstorms and your life will be hell. So I need a meeting. Now.'"
Massa eventually came to the Esquire offices in New York to tell us the Petraeus story. He spoke with the bluster and hyperbole I had seen in him at stump speeches, but he had credibility on this matter — twenty-four years of active service in the Navy, a seat on the House Armed Services Committee, and an increasing voice in the media as a Democrat who would speak with authority about military issues. Still, when he called the possibility that Petraeus could beat Obama in an election a "coup" and "treason," the characterization seemed odd. "If what I've been told is true — and I believe it is," he told myself and two colleagues, "General David Petraeus, a commander with soldiers deployed in two theaters of war, has had multiple meetings with Dick Cheney, the former vice-president of the United States, to discuss Petraeus's candidacy for the Republican nomination for the presidency. And in fact, that's more than a constitutional crisis. That's treason."
That could potentially be big news. Also, this:
He tells me about one night when, after he had been drinking with some staff members, he took an Ambien and ended up walking to the Washington Monument at 4:00 in the morning, before texting his guys that he couldn't find his way home.
We liked that part, too.
Eric Massa's Secret [Esquire]