Republicans are taking a wait-and-see attitude after a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who settled a former aide's sexual harassment complaint with taxpayer money said he saw her as a "soul mate".
Meehan denied harassing the aide in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, but confirmed that he "developed an affection" for the aide "in a way in which I was struggling to make sure that I would never put that into our professional relationship".
The comments were his first extensive response to a New York Times report Saturday that revealed that he had used thousands of taxpayer dollars to quietly settle a sexual harassment claim brought by the former aide, who was decades younger than the married, 62-year-old lawmaker. Meehan told the Inquirer that he would repay the settlement if the House Ethics Committee finds that he did harass the staffer.
A placard with the hashtag "MeToo" is seen on a European Parliament member's desk during a debate to discuss preventive measures against sexual harassment and abuse in the EU at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, October 25, 2017. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he reacted "poorly".
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Meehan is reportedly planning to run for the re-elections.
In a joint statement, Ethics Committee chairwoman Susan Brooks, R-Ind., and ranking member Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said that Meehan had submitted a written request to the panel requesting that it review the matter. "I think that the idea of soul mate is that sort of person that you go through remarkable experiences together". The district's boundaries could change too after the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court recently struck down the state's congressional district map as a violation of state law and ordered new districts to be drawn before February 15.
The woman filed a formal complaint, and after going through Congress' investigative process, she and the representative settled a year ago.
"Sometimes I have the tendency to lash out to others on the staff", Meehan said. With respect to resolving any allegation made against the office, Congressman Meehan would only act with advice of House Counsel and consistent with House Ethics Committee guidance.
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In a statement, Ryan spokesperson AshLee Strong said: 'Speaker Ryan takes the allegations against Mr. Meehan very seriously.
Meehan reached a confidential settlement with the aide and she left his office, it is claimed.
Democrats, including Gov. Tom Wolf, have called for Meehan to resign and protesters have gathered outside his Pennsylvania offices demanding he step down.
To Meehan, all those things show that the woman was not uncomfortable with their relationship, and he is now speaking out so candidly so he can defend himself, being advised by his attorneys that the confidentiality agreement was breached when the woman's attorney spoke to the Times.
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The accuser's attorney, Alexis Ronickher, has stated that her client "prizes her privacy above all else".