US House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has said it was not the accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein but the election of President Donald Trump, that has evoked a flood of sexual harassment allegations against powerful figures.
“Harvey didn’t evoke this. The election of President Trump evoked what happened to Harvey and now everybody is served notice,” Pelosi said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.
The president has been dogged by claims of sexual abuse for years, including a tape that surfaced during the presidential campaign last year during which he bragged about kissing women against their will and grabbing them by their genitalia.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” he was heard saying on the Access Hollywood recording.
During the presidential campaign, 16 women came forward to allege sexual misconduct by Trump. The claims have been dismissed by the president as “fake news.”
Pelosi, meanwhile, defended Democratic Rep. John Conyers as an “icon” for women’s rights and declined to say whether the longtime lawmaker should resign over allegations that he sexually harassed female staff members.
Conyers, a celebrated civil rights leader who is the longest-serving member of Congress, on Sunday announced he was leaving his post as ranking member of the powerful House Judiciary Committee — but remaining in Congress — while he seeks vindication before the House Ethics Committee.
Pelosi insisted that Conyers deserves “due process” and will “do the right thing” after Congress returns from Thanksgiving break on Monday. She called the accusations against Conyers a “big distraction.”
But she later tweeted, in a statement about Conyers’s decision, that “no matter how great an individual’s legacy, it is not a license for harassment.”
Legislators have struggled with how to react to allegations against fellow party members.
Pelosi suggested that the allegations against Democrat Al Franken — including that the Minnesota senator once kissed a woman against her will — were less serious than those against embattled Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.
Asked if she would be satisfied were Franken to apologize, Pelosi told “Meet the Press” on NBC: “Right. Also, his accusers have to accept an apology. The victims have some say.”