On Saturday, the New York Times published a detailed report about allegations of sexual harassment leveled against Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) by a former aide. In a subsequent interview on Tuesday, Meehan said his conduct was wrong but didn’t rise to the level of harassment, and offered a novel explanation for his boorish behavior: Obamacare made me do it.
According to the Times report, Meehan displayed unusual curiosity about the personal life of a female aide on his staff. When she began a relationship with someone outside his office, Meehan’s curiosity gave way to jealousy and hostility, and his staffer — feeling uncomfortable in the confines of Meehan’s Capital Hill offices — eventually began working remotely before leaving the job altogether.
Meehan, who until this weekend sat on the House Ethics Committee tasked with investigating lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct, initially denied the allegations. But he didn’t deny using taxpayer dollars to fund a settlement with the aide after she brought a formal complaint against him last year.
On Tuesday, Meehan addressed the allegations with the Philadelphia Inquirer, this time acknowledging that he expressed feelings towards the unnamed staffer and acted “selfishly” upon learning of her relationship, but again denied the allegations of sexual harassment. And then he dropped a bombshell: his hostility towards the staffer was because of Obamacare.
Meehan admitted to “lashing out” after learning about his staffer’s relationship, and attributed it to the pressure he was facing from constituents during the height of the debate over a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, according to the Inquirer.
“Sometimes I have the tendency to lash out to others on the staff,” he told the paper during a marathon of interviews with local news outlets on Tuesday. “And you go hardest on the ones that you care the most about.”
Meehan’s media blitz accompanies the news that he intends to run for re-election in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, a heavily gerrymandered district to the west of Philadelphia. Four Democratic candidates are vying for their party’s nomination. One of them, local IT worker Drew McGinty, was quick to call on Meehan to resign following Saturday’s report.