The Pennsylvania Republican accused of sexually harassing his former aide and settling his own harassment claim denied that any such harassment took place, saying he had "affection" for the young woman he saw as his "soul mate."
Rep. Pat Meehan, who was removed from his position on the House Ethics Committee by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan last week after The New York Times reported he settled his own sexual harassment claim with taxpayer funds, explained his interactions with a decades-younger former aide in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer this week. Meehan said he never pursued a romantic or sexual relationship with the woman who later accused him of sexual harassment, but did say he developed a deep "affection" for her and saw her as a "soul mate" — and told her as much over ice cream last year.
Meehan, 62, is married with three sons. He intends to run for reelection this year.
Meehan did acknowledge to the publication that he acted "selfishly" when he discovered the young aide was in a serious relationship, writing her a handwritten letter expressing thankfulness that she was in his life. The Philadelphia Inquirer published the note.
"I started to talk to her about my reaction to (her new relationship) and you know, selfishly I was thinking about what this was going to mean to me," Meehan said, "that she was leaving and that this was going to change the dynamic which was very special in my office and also somebody that I was emotionally close to by virtue of the time that we spent together in seven years."
But he blamed lashing out over the news of the relationship to his office on the stress of the Republican Party's failure to repeal Obamacare.
"Sometimes I have the tendency to lash out to others on the staff … and you go hardest on the ones that you care the most about," Meehan told the publication.
Meehan said he would repay the taxpayer money he used, although he rejected the term "settlement," opting for the term, "severance."
On the House Ethics Committee, Meehan was one of the members of Congress responsible for overseeing sexual harassment investigations. Ryan swiftly moved to remove him from that committee, making an announcement of his removal hours after The New York Times first reported the alleged settlement.