Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) denied allegations that he sexually harassed a young female staffer and blamed Obamacare for some of his behavior that she perceived as hostile.
Meehan told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday that he believed the two were “soul mates” but denied that an emotional letter he sent her last year was romantic. Meehan said he sent the letter after learning she was in a serious relationship and was considering quitting her position.
“You are and have been a complete partner to me and you have brought me much happiness,” he wrote in the May 2017 letter, which is signed “with all my heart.”
She didn’t reciprocate his feelings, leading him to grow hostile, the woman said in a complaint. She received a taxpayer-funded settlement in response and left her position.
Meehan denied that he retaliated against her and instead blamed any negative behavior on stress over the Republican effort to dismantle Affordable Care Act. On the day Meehan penned the letter to his aide, the House voted to partially repeal and replace the health care law.
The New York Times first reported news of the settlement on Saturday. Hours later, Meehan was removed from the House Ethics Committee, the body tasked with investigating claims of sexual misconduct among members. An investigation into his conduct was launched Monday.
“I looked at it the way somebody might look at the customary resolution of a matter in which we can allow the parties to move forward,” Meehan said when asked why the settlement remained confidential. He offered to repay the public funds in the event that the Ethics Committee investigation concludes that harassment did in fact occur.
Meehan said he has no plans to abandon his bid for reelection.
A tidal wave of sexual misconduct allegations prompted a total of five members of Congress ― Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), plus Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.).― to resign or retire late last year. Public funds were used to pay out $115,000 in sexual harassment claims stemming from the House between 2008 and 2012.