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Rep. Patrick Meehan will not seek re-election

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Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan, under fire for using taxpayer money for a payment to a former staff member after a sexual harassment accusation, says he will not seek re-election, Speaker Paul Ryan’s office confirms.

Ryan’s office confirmed to CNN that the speaker was informed of Meehan’s decision after a letter was sent to Meehan’s campaign chair. The Inquirer and Daily News obtained a copy of a letter Meehan wrote to his campaign chairman Thursday.

“After consultation with my wife Carolyn and with my three sons, and after prayerful reflection, I write to inform you that I will not seek re-election to the United States Congress for the 7th Congressional District in 2018,” he wrote, according to the reports. “Today I communicated the same to the office of Speaker Paul Ryan.”

Meehan called the controversy a distraction and said he needed “to own it because it is my own conduct that fueled the matter,” according to the reports.

The National Republican Congressional Committee released a statement on the decision as well, calling the situation “disappointing.”

“While I’m disappointed by the circumstances leading to Congressman Meehan’s retirement, I thank him for his dedication to his district. We must always hold ourselves to the highest possible standard — especially while serving in Congress,” said NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers. “I am confident that the voters of Pennsylvania’s 7th District will elect a strong conservative who will represent their values.”

Meehan maintained he never was unfaithful to his wife. He said in an interview Tuesday with the Philadelphia Inquirer that while he had developed deep “affection” for a former staffer and saw her as a “soul mate,” he never pursued a romantic relationship with her, contrary to her claims.

Alexis Ronickher, the lawyer for Meehan’s accuser, told CNN on Thursday that she and her client have no comment regarding Meehan’s plans, other than this “does not end the need for the House Ethics Committee to continue its investigation into the matter, which my client will fully cooperate with.”

Meehan told the Inquirer on Tuesday that he would repay the public funds used to settle the case if the House Ethics Committee’s investigation finds that he harassed the woman. However, according to the Inquirer, Meehan described the payment as “severance” rather than a “settlement.”

Meehan had been a member of the House ethics panel but was removed by Ryan last Saturday. Ryan also told Meehan he must repay whatever taxpayer funds were used to settle the case.