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A love so great it requires a Blingee


On Saturday, the New York Times reported that Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Meehan, a member of the House Ethics Committee who has "taken a leading role in fighting sexual harassment in Congress," had himself settled a sexual harassment complaint filed by a top aide who accused him of trying to romance her when he found out she was in a relationship, then losing his shit after she rejected him. The settlement was paid out of congressional funds, and the aide was required to sign a strict nondisclosure agreement, as seems the norm under Congress's sucky procedures for covering up handling sexual harassment cases.

After Meehan, 62, declared his love for the aide, who was decades younger than he, he allegedly became hostile and impossible to work with. The aide had seen Meehan as a father figure, but the office environment became impossible. The Times reports that the handling of the complaint actually made matters worse for the aide, as congressional attorneys and Meehan's representatives pushed back against her claim and argued she'd misinterpreted his intent:

It led to her estrangement from her colleagues, and isolation from friends, family and her boyfriend, according to the people in whom she confided. It set her back financially and professionally, as she continued to pay legal costs associated with the complaint even after leaving her job in Mr. Meehan’s office and struggling to find a new one. She moved back in with her parents and ultimately decided to start a new life abroad.

After the Times report, Meehan's communication director issued a statement denying the allegations, with the usual blah-blah-blah about how Meehan "treated his colleagues, male and female, with the utmost respect and professionalism."

By Tuesday, however, Meehan was talking to the Philadelphia Inquirer about his great "affection" for the aide, whom he considered a "soul mate," and admitting he had behaved "selfishly" toward her. What's more, he said he's still planning on running for reelection, because yes he's that deluded. Obviously when voters see the weird mash note he sent the aide the night he confessed his love for her (over ice cream! Is that not sweet and innocent?), they'll understand how pure and definitely not creepy his feelings for her truly were. Besides, there was no sex or even any attempt at a romantic relationship, and he remained true to his wife (despite his best efforts).

We'll give Meehan this much: He has very neat penmanship.

It's sweet, in the way that any older man stalking a much younger woman for whom he's developed a delusional crush is "sweet," i.e., nauseating. He's very happy for her and for the "very, very lucky man who might get to be your partner for more of your life." Heck, he even prays she'll blessed with children, who she can "raise so wonderfully in your image." Nothing weird there.

And just to put a truly strange Red White And Blue-Balled spin on it all, he tells her that he went to his favorite spot for contemplation, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. There he saw, close together, the names of two fallen soldiers (the names are redacted in the copy above, but the Inquirer explains one was named "Meehan" and the other had the same last name as the aide), which got him feeling all philosophical:

As I traced the monument with my finger, I wondered who they were and why their plans ended so sadly and abruptly. As we travel our paths together, I am comforted that there is more unwritten.

Yes, he saw destiny written out in the well-timed deaths of two soldiers. The human mind is a weird thing. Asked for comment, the Wall said it had seen some shit, man, but there's something deeply weird about a guy who never served trying to use it as a solution to his inappropriate feelings for an aide. "That's messed up," commented the 247 feet of black marble. "Go take your 'reflections' to the Reflecting Pool."

Meehan explained to the Inquirer that the real villain in the whole situation wasn't he, since his intentions were pure. No, it was, of course, Obamacare:

Meehan denied any harassment, and said any anger in the office was driven by stress around high-pressure votes last year over the Affordable Care Act. He said he sought to remain loyal to his wife, and that he settled the harassment claim so he and the aide could move on and keep the issue private.

Meehan also explained that he'd paid the settlement using taxpayer funds and kept the arrangement secret because that's what attorneys for the House recommended. Yep, it's common enough that there is a standard practice, or at least that's how other situations had been handled. And while he's willing to pay the funds back, there's a catch:

He also said he would repay the public funds used to settle the harassment case, if the House Ethics Committee finds he did in fact harass her. He termed the payment a “severance,” rejecting the word “settlement.”

He also will probably insist that the press refer to the matter not as a "scandal" but as a "tragic missed chance for love in the cold cruel world of Washington."

In addition to the mash note, Meehan's office shared with the Inquirer a text the aide had sent him the next day, which thanked him for "your very kind words and for your friendship." So clearly there were no hard feelings and she never would have said that in the hope that he'd please please please just shut up and leave her alone forever. Still, the man is not utterly unaware of propriety:

Asked if a subordinate might not feel comfortable expressing discomfort or rejecting the note, Meehan said “in hindsight” he should “should have been looking at it from the perspective of a subordinate and a superior.”

Goody for him! He also said he'd had a hard time putting down in words the struggle he had with his feelings:

“I did not seek a relationship. What I did was try to communicate that I was struggling with the idea that I might if I wasn’t – if I wasn’t able to keep things in the proper perspective,” Meehan said in a phone interview.

Yes, and we're sure he hoped she don't mind, he hoped she don't mind, that he put down in words, how wonderful life is while she's in the world.

But really, Meehan insisted, the conversation and the letter were merely his attempts to avoid an inappropriate situation, yeah, that's it:

“I started to talk to her about my reaction to (her new relationship) and you know, selfishly I was thinking about what this was going to mean to me,” Meehan said, “that she was leaving and that this was going to change the dynamic which was very special in my office and also somebody that I was emotionally close to by virtue of the time that we spent together in seven years.”

Meehan said he told the aide “that I was a happily married man and I was not interested in a relationship, particularly not any sexual relationship, but we were soul mates.”

Since it was a phone interview, the Inquirer was unable to confirm whether the statement was accompanied by big cartoon hearts rising from Meehan's head.

As for the nastiness after the aide spurned him, Meehan said he felt just awful about it, but again, that was really all Obamacare's fault:

He said he felt bad about acting “rough” in his office, but said that was a result of the health care vote, when he faced intense pressure from both sides of the debate.

“Sometimes I have the tendency to lash out to others on the staff … and you go hardest on the ones that you care the most about,” Meehan said in the interview.

Yep, sounds like a guy with a clear head on this stuff; he should get reelected with no trouble at all. They're generally understanding when a guy's little crush ruins a young woman's life, her relationships, and drives her to leave for a whole 'nother continent.

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[NYT / Philly.com]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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