Congressman Accused Of Harassment Defends Himself, Says He Saw Aide As A 'Soul Mate'

Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., has been accused of sexual harassment by a former aide. He says the two simply enjoyed a close friendship and it was never a sexual relationship.
If you're trying to tamp down on allegations of sexual harassment, it's probably not a good idea to say the staffer making the claim was a "soul mate."
Yet that's exactly what Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., did in an interviews with member station WHYY, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local outlets just days after a New York Times report that he had settled a claim asserted by a much younger woman who worked in his office using taxpayer-funded money from his office fund.
When the story broke on Saturday, a spokesman for Meehan denied the allegations and the four-term congressman said he wanted the woman to waive the confidentiality agreement she signed as part of her settlement in order to "ensure a full and open airing of all the facts."
Instead, it's Meehan who decided to air the facts — and they don't appear to exonerate him. The matter is currently being investigated by the House Ethics Committee — which Meehan sat on until House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., recently asked him to step down from the committee after the Times report.
Throughout the interview, Meehan seems to be trying to rationalize the way he pursued his staffer as somehow acceptable because they never had a sexual relationship and he felt a genuine connection with her. The married congressman and father of three denied any harassment on his part.
Meehan said he told the Inquirer that he saw his aide as his "soul mate" and that he had developed a deep "affection" for the much younger woman "in a way in which I was struggling to make sure that I would never put that into our professional relationship."
In an interview with WHYY's Dave Davies, Meehan insisted that he "never touched her" beyond hugging and "I never expressed any interest in doing so. I never asked for any kind of a relationship."
"I've been up front that while we worked together, that there was a growing affection, that I wanted to make sure....that I would never cross that line," Meehan said. However, he admitted that "it was something that from time to time I struggled with."
As for calling the woman a "soul mate," Meehan explained to WHYY that phrase simply "related to the kind of kindred spirit that was going through these experiences that we shared together," noting that the woman was a kind of gatekeeper for who he would see during the day and the first person he'd see when he got to Washington, D.C., and the last person he'd see before he departed for home. They shared "a lot of humor," he said, and she showed "grace under pressure."
Still, he admitted to the Inquirer that when she started dating another man seriously, he acted "selfishly." Meehan said that if he was acting "rough" in his office or lashed out at all, it was driven by stress he was experiencing over intense votes last year, including GOP efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
The congressman invited his aide out for ice cream, where he planned to tell her about his feelings.
"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 told the Inquirer, "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."
They shared a hug that was "maybe longer that night than needed to be" — and then Meehan felt it was alright to write her a two-page heartfelt note about how deeply he cared for her.
Meehan provided a copy of that letter to WHYY, along with text messages from the woman showing she was excited to go get ice cream and that she simply wanted to "be the touchstone you need down here," with a winky face emoji.

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