While hundreds of thousands of people participate in Saturday’s Women’s March 2018, a New York Times report alleges that Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pennsylvania), a champion against sexual harassment in Congress, has settled his own misconduct case. According to the story, Meehan “used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle his own misconduct complaint after a former aide accused him last year of making unwanted romantic overtures to her.” The congressman later denied the Times‘ story in a statement emailed to Roll Call.
According to the Times, Meehan “expressed interest in the personal life” of a much younger aide who denied his advances. That’s when things reportedly took a turn:
But after the woman became involved in a serious relationship with someone outside the office last year, Mr. Meehan professed his romantic desires for her — first in person, and then in a handwritten letter — and he grew hostile when she did not reciprocate, the people familiar with her time in the office said.
Life in the office became untenable, so she initiated the complaint process, started working from home and ultimately left the job. She later reached a confidential agreement with Mr. Meehan’s office that included a settlement for an undisclosed amount to be paid from Mr. Meehan’s congressional office fund.
In a statement received by the Times, Roll Call, and other outlets, Meehan’s spokesperson denied the story:
“Congressman Meehan denies the allegations,” his spokesman John Elizandro said in an email. “Throughout his career he has always treated his colleagues, male and female, with the utmost respect and professionalism.”
Previously, Reps. Joe Barton and Blake Farenthold — both Republicans from Texas — announced they would not be seeking reelection in 2018 following their respective sexual harassment scandals. Fellow GOP Congressman Trent Franks promptly resigned in December when reports of his asking an aide to carry his child for $5 million went public. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers have not been without similar faults, as both Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Al Franken resigned from their respective positions following sexual misconduct scandals.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) told the Times that Meehan “was being removed immediately from the House Ethics Committee, where he has helped investigate sexual misconduct claims.” What’s more, Ryan told the embattled Pennsylvania congressman “that he should repay the taxpayer funds” he allegedly used to settle the sexual harassment complaint.