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Rep. Meehan Denies Sexually Harassing Younger Staffer


Up until this week, Pennsylvania Republican Patrick Meehan was helping to lead the House Ethics Committee's investigation into sexual harassment. Well, now he is the subject of an investigation. Meehan denies sexually harassing a staff member, but, as NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow reports, he does admit he told her he was attracted to her.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Last spring, Pat Meehan got noticeably jealous when he found out one of his staff members was in a serious relationship. So the suburban Philadelphia Republican tried to explain himself. He wrote her a letter and then told her in person...

PATRICK MEEHAN: That I have an affection for her. But I clarified that beforehand that I was a happily married man. I was not looking for any kind of a relationship.

DETROW: In an interview with Philadelphia Public Radio station WHYY, Meehan said he just wanted the much younger staffer to know how he felt.

MEEHAN: I admitted that it was something that, from time to time, I struggled with.

DETROW: As Meehan told his story Tuesday, one phrase stood out.

MEEHAN: The term soulmate. And I can only tell you what it meant to me.

DETROW: Meehan says it's a bond.

MEEHAN: It related to the kind of kindred spirit that was going through the experiences that we shared together. And in my job, as with all colleagues like this, you know, there are highs. There are lows. There's excitement. There's all kinds of things that you deal with.

DETROW: It's pretty unusual for a lawmaker to share all this with the press. Meehan has his reasons.

MEEHAN: Because I've got people making accusations that somehow I have acted in a sexually harassing way.

DETROW: He sees nothing wrong with telling a much younger subordinate he was attracted to her. The woman felt differently and filed a harassment complaint. After the lengthy congressional mediation process played out, Meehan paid her a taxpayer-funded settlement. And despite all that, he says he's still running for re-election. The woman's lawyer says in a statement she has repeatedly requested that Mr. Meehan cease discussing this matter.

Scott Detrow, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.