MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen is standing by a campaign ad attacking one of Minnesota’s largest health systems.

Paulsen claims Allina Health Care ignored sexual harassment allegations when his 3rd District Democratic opponent Dean Phillips served on the board of directors. It is a claim Phillips calls “a lie.”

The ad accuses Allina of ignoring harassment claims in 2007, and says then-board chairman Phillips “did nothing.”

“Seven nurses said they were subject to lewd comments, groping, even assault. A doctor even accused Phillips’s board of directors of covering up the harassment charges,” said the ad’s narrator.

The ad is based on an 11-year-old lawsuit which was settled out of court. And Paulsen’s campaign claims inaction by the board Phillips led may have allowed harassment to continue — even through this year.

dean phillips allina sexual harassment ad Erik Paulsen Ad Claims Dean Phillips Ignored Allina Sexual Harassment Claims

(credit: Friends of Erik Paulsen)

“I expect more from a sitting member of Congress,” Phillips said.

He denies ever knowing about the incidents, and says he is “deeply troubled” by the ad.

“Once lies becomes, in some people’s mind, truths, we’re in trouble,” Phillips said.

Former Medtronic CEO Bill George, who served as Allina board chairman, took to Twitter to address the controversy.

“I was very distressed to see Rep. Paulsen attacking the board of Allina,” George said. “To me, that’s beyond the pale.”

Related: Phillips Ad Finds Bigfoot Looking For Rep. Paulsen

Allina Health Systems employ 29,000 people, and rarely gets involved in politics. But it made an exception to deny these charges. In a statement, Allina officials said they “took appropriate action, consistent with our values and safe workplace policies.” They added, “Harassment of any kind is not tolerated and has no place in this organization. That was true in 2007 and it is true now.”

Paulsen has represented Minnesota’s 2nd District for 10 years. It is considered a swing district, meaning it could vote Republican or Democrat in 2018.

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