U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan Under Fire After Sexual Harassment Report

The Pa. congressman has been removed from the House Ethics Committee, through which he previously investigated sexual harassment complaints.

Until this weekend, U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan was largely portrayed as one of several congressmen leading the fight against sexual violence in Washington and elsewhere. But on Saturday, The New York Times reported that Meehan used “thousands of dollars” in taxpayer money to settle his own sexual harassment complaint.

According to the publication, Meehan, a 62-year-old Republican who represents Pennsylvania’s suburban 7th District, used his congressional office fund to settle the complaint, which was filed last year by a former aide. Ten unnamed sources familiar with the situation told the Times that Meehan allegedly made “unwanted romantic overtures” toward the much-younger aide, then grew “hostile” after she did not reciprocate his advances.

Meehan, a married father of three, has denied the accusations. In a statement, Meehan’s spokesman said that in “resolving any allegation made against the office, Congressman Meehan would only act with advice of House Counsel and consistent with House Ethics Committee guidance. Every step of the process was handled ethically and appropriately.”

Following the report, Meehan was promptly removed from the House ethics committee, through which he had been investigating sexual harassment complaints. Now the committee is investigating accusations against Meehan, per a spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The exact amount of Meehan’s alleged settlement is unknown at this time, though the Times reports it cost “thousands of dollars.” Meehan reportedly used money from his office account, a move that would allow the payment to go unnoticed. Other legislators, like Michigan Democrat Rep. John Conyers, have allegedly used office funds to settle sexual harassment complaints.

Ryan is calling on Meehan to “repay” taxpayers for the settlement. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf urged Meehan to resign, as he has with other elected officials accused of inappropriate sexual behavior – like state Sen. Daylin Leach, one of Meehan’s challengers.

“This disturbing report reveals systemic mistreatment of a female victim – both by Congressman Meehan and others with power in Washington,” Wolf said in a statement. “That is wrong and unacceptable.”

Per Meehan’s statement, the congressional attorneys handling the case have asked the complainant – who remains unnamed – to waive confidentiality to “ensure a full and open airing of all the facts.”

In a statement, Alexis Ronickher, an attorney for the former aide, rejected that request, calling it “an effort to preserve [Meehan’s] career … so he can deny well-grounded allegations knowing full well that his former staffer prizes her privacy above all else. Mr. Meehan demanded confidentiality to resolve the matter, presumably so that the public would never know that he entered into a settlement of a serious sexual harassment claim.”

“We will not allow our client to be victimized twice by this man,” Ronickher added. “If he further violates the confidentiality strictures he insisted upon and he agreed to, he will leave our client no choice but to seek legal recourse on her behalf.”

On Sunday, U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, called Meehan a “good man” but said the committee will “take a serious look” at the accusations against him, per the Inquirer.

Meehan, a former federal prosecutor serving his fourth term, launched a congressional task force against sexual violence in April 2017. He represents a battleground district that includes most of Delaware County and parts of Lancaster, Chester, Montgomery and Berks counties.