Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan will do just about anything to deflect blame for harassing a former aide.
The congressman representing Pennsylvania’s 7th District was accused over the weekend of harassing a female aide and lashing out when he found out the woman had a boyfriend. He insisted, according to the New York Times, that the young woman “specifically invited” his harassment and that he was “emotionally wounded” when she rejected him and filed a complaint.
And, according to Meehan, Obamacare is to blame for the whole debacle.
In an interview with the Philly Inquirer, Meehan, who is a 62-year-old married father of three, admitted that he had romantic feelings for the young aide, who the Times reported is decades younger than Meehan. He became angry when the woman did not express mutual feelings and engaged in hostile behavior toward her. According to the Inquirer:
“But he denied harassing her, and said any hostility he may have exhibited stemmed from stress around high-pressure votes last year over the Affordable Care Act.”
Meehan told the Inquirer that he developed stronger feelings for the aide as they worked more closely together and considered her his “soul mate.”
“After professing his feelings to her one night last spring in Washington, he said, they exchanged a hug, as he said they often did, but ‘maybe longer that night than needed to be,'” according to the Inquirer.
Despite the stress from Obamacare and a long hug, the former aide rejected the congressman’s advances, to which Meehan responded “poorly.” He subsequently wrote the aide a handwritten note, supposedly to wish her well with her boyfriend.
“You are and have been a complete partner to me and you have brought me much happiness,” Meehan wrote in the note dated May 7, 2017.
“I thank God for putting you into my life With all of my heart, Patrick,” the letter concluded.
The former aide responded with a text message to “thank” Meehan for his “very kind words and friendship.”
“Asked in the interview if an employee might not have felt free to express discomfort after getting such a letter from her boss, Meehan said ‘in hindsight’ he ‘should have been looking at it from the perspective of a subordinate and a superior,”” the Inquirer reported.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), that mindset in itself is a problem. The EEOC reported in a 2016 study:
“Workplace culture has the greatest impact on allowing harassment to flourish, or conversely, in preventing harassment. The importance of leadership cannot be overstated effective harassment prevention efforts, and workplace culture in which harassment is not tolerated, must start with and involve the highest level of management of the company.”
And many women fear retaliation. The EEOC also revealed that three-quarters of harassment victims do not come forward for this reason.
Meehan in various interviews has refused to call a monetary payment to the woman a settlement but instead a “severance.” Whatever he chooses to call it, Meehan has come under investigation because he reportedly used thousands of taxpayer dollars to fund the payment.
Meehan has called on the woman to waive a confidentiality agreement to discuss the complaint openly. But an attorney for the former aide said her client wishes to maintain a low-profile.
“My client is going to uphold her end of the confidentiality agreement,” said Alexis Ronickher, the woman’s lawyer. “She resolved this matter in order to put this behind her and keep her life private. She is not going to make a public spectacle of it regardless of what he does.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan ousted Meehan from the House Ethics Committee, but Meehan said he still plans to run for reelection. He told the Times, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”