WASHINGTON — Democrat John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the US Congress and an iconic civil rights leader, said Sunday 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.
With Conyers announcing he will step down as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, will assume the powerful post.
Nadler said in a statement that he would continue Conyers’ “critical work.”
“Even under these unfortunate circumstances, the important work of the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee must move forward,” Nadler, who is Jewish, said in the statement.
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.“I will do everything in my power to continue to press on the important issues facing our committee, including criminal justice reform, workplace equality, and holding the Trump Administration accountable. Ranking Member Conyers has a 50-year legacy of advancing the cause of justice, and my job moving forward is to continue that critical work.”
Leaders of the Ethics Committee said Tuesday they planned to investigate allegations that Conyers had sexually harassed or discriminated against staff members and used official resources “for impermissible personal purposes.”
No ‘license for harassment’
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 on Sunday 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.”
Zero tolerance means consequences. I have asked for an ethics investigation, and as that investigation continues, @RepJohnConyers has agreed to step aside as Ranking Member. 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 Sunday 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 apologize, 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.”