Democrat John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the US Congress and an iconic civil rights leader, said today he is stepping down from a leadership position as he battles allegations of sexual harassment.
Even while denying the allegations, Conyers, who is 88, said he was stepping down as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee while he seeks vindication for “myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics.”
He is, however, keeping his seat in Congress.
Conyers, whose Michigan district includes half of Detroit, is the last member of either house of Congress to have served under President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. He co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus.
Leaders of the Ethics Committee said on Tuesday they planned to investigate allegations that Conyers had sexually harassed or discriminated against staff members and used official resources “for impermissible personal purposes.”
Conyers said in his statement that the recent allegations had been “raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger.” BuzzFeed News, which first reported the settlement, said it had received documents from Mike Cernovich, a right-wing commentator.
Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said today that Conyers deserved “due process” as the Ethics Committee inquiry moves ahead, calling him “an icon” who had done much to advance women’s causes.
But separately, she tweeted, in reference to Conyers, that “no matter how great an individual’s legacy, it is not a license for harassment.”
Charges of sexual harassment and misconduct have shaken politicians of both parties — as well as men in the media and entertainment businesses — raising pressure on people like Conyers and Senator Al Franken to step down, and on an Alabama candidate for the US Senate, Republican Roy Moore, to drop out of that race.
Pelosi suggested today that the allegations against Franken — including that he kissed a woman against her will — were less serious than those against Moore, who is accused by one woman of sexual advances toward her when she was 14.
Asked if she would be satisfied were Franken to apologise, rather than resign, Pelosi told NBC, “Right. Also, his accusers have to accept an apology. The victims have some say in all of this as well.”
Franken was reportedly planning an announcement late this evening.