Editorial: Meehan confuses ‘soul mate’ and sexual assault


U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan spoke out on Tuesday, denying the sexual harassment charges against him. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan sat on the House Ethics Committee for three terms, investigating several representatives’ alleged violations of the law and ensuring members maintained proper conduct — until this past Saturday. Now, Meehan himself is under investigation by the committee in response to sexual harassment charges filed against him by a young former female aide.

Meehan spoke out Tuesday, saying he was not interested in a relationship with the woman, but his deeply intimate words to her paint a different, much more damning picture.

The woman, who remains anonymous, had an allegedly extensive work relationship with Meehan as his aide, which is how Meehan said he developed a deep “affection” for her.

When the woman began a serious relationship with another man, Meehan reportedly “lashed out” and conveyed his romantic feelings to her before writing her a letter laced with affectionate sentiments — including “you have brought me much happiness” and “you are … infectious with your laugh.”

If Meehan had admitted his words were inappropriate, he would have at least shown the aide respect in acknowledging both his own wrongdoings and the validity of her discomfort. But instead, Meehan denied ever harassing her.  

The aide’s response to Meehan’s two-page letter was a short statement thanking him for his “kind words” and “friendship,” although it’s become clear that this “friendship” wasn’t consensual.

Perhaps the woman’s kindly response to Meehan’s doting message gave him reason to think he had done nothing wrong — but we know that women don’t always have a fair shot to speak honestly about sensitive issues like harassment, especially in the workplace.

We’ve all seen the power people like Harvey Weinstein or Louis C.K. can have over their the women in their life, who may keep silent about the incidents for years after they occur. For Meehan to believe his actions were appropriate solely because his aide never actively resisted him is disappointing and shortsighted. His actions speak far louder than her few, platonic words to him.

Meehan was the woman’s superior — a factor he wishes he had considered “in hindsight” but still dismisses as a possible reason for his inappropriate behavior.

“There is no hierarchy,” Meehan said of his office. “We call it ‘Team Meehan.’”

In addition to Meehan affirming his lack of interest in a romantic relationship with the aide, he also said in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer that he “sought to remain loyal to his wife.”

Perhaps that’s true, but Meehan fails to see loyalty in most marriage doesn’t hinge on physical relationships alone — it’s also about emotional intimacy, something the congressman seemed to have plenty of.

Meehan is up for reelection in the 7th Congressional District. Although he still plans to pursue his campaign for reelection, it’s time Meehan steps down and opens the seat up for someone who understands the boundary lines between adult colleagues — and that calling one of them your “soul mate” is crossing them.

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