Amid sexual allegations, Congressman John Conyers of Michigan quits House committee

November 27, 2017 2:08 am
This file photo taken on November 26, 2017 shows Representative speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus, September 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)
Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, the longest-serving member of Congress, has stepped down as the top Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee, following sexual harassment accusations.
“After careful consideration and in light of the attention drawn by recent allegations made against me, I have notified the Democratic leader of my request to step aside as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee during the investigation of these matters,” Conyers said in a statement on Sunday.
Media reports have claimed that Conyers paid more than 27,000 dollars to settle a complaint by a woman who had been fired because she would “not succumb to (his) sexual advances.”
The employee, not named in reports, said on one occasion that the 88-year-old representative from Detroit had asked her to work from his hotel room and begun talking about his sexual desire, urging her to touch his genitals.
BuzzFeed claimed it had obtained notarized affidavits from other staff members who described how Conyers “repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sex acts, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public.”
“I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so,” said Conyers, who has spent 53 years in Congress. “My office resolved the allegations – with an express denial of liability – to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation. That should not be lost in the narrative.”
The 88-year-old lawmaker said he would not resign from Congress and instead would fight the allegations.
“I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics,” he said in a letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Conyers’ resignation came after days of internal pressure on him, particularly from Pelosi, to step aside from the leadership post, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the process.
12 female staffers defend Conyers
A dozen female former staffers supported Conyers in a statement on Sunday. The women said Conyers had been a “gentleman” and “respectful” while they worked for him. 
“While we do not pass judgment on the specific allegations reported in the press or the women who brought them, our experiences with Mr. Conyers were quite different than the image of him being portrayed in the media,” they said. “Mr. Conyers was a gentleman and never behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner in our presence,” they continued. “He was respectful, valued our opinions, challenged our thinking, and treated as professionals.”
Conyers accused of attending staff meeting in underwear
Meanwhile, Melanie Sloan, a lawyer who worked with Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee, had a different narrative of Conyers’ behavior, claiming she was called up to the long-serving congressman’s office to discuss an issue only to find him “walking  around in his underwear.”
Sloan is the third woman to accuse Conyers of inappropriate behavior.
“It made me increasingly anxious and depressed about going to work every day,” she said, adding that “there was no way to fix it.”
Though Sloan maintains Conyers did not sexually assault her, she told the Detroit Free Press that “his constant stream of abuse was difficult to handle and it was certainly damaging to my self-respect and self-esteem.”
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