Rep. John Conyers is stepping down from his post as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee amid sexual harassment allegations against him.
“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 posted on Twitter by reporters from several news outlets.
Conyers has confirmed reaching a $ 27,000 settlement with an ex-staffer who said she was fired for resisting his sexual advances, but denied any wrongdoing.
The Michigan Democrat and longest-serving House member repeated his denials Sunday. “I deny these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger. I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics,” he said.
But Conyers said he could “not in good conscience allow these charges to undermine my colleagues in the Democratic caucus” by keeping the committee post.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi welcomed the move.
“No matter how great an individual’s legacy, it is not a license for harassment,” she said in a tweet Sunday.
Politicians accused of sexual harassment or assault
“Zero tolerance means consequences. I have asked for an ethics investigation, and as that investigation continues, Congressman Conyers has agreed to step aside as Ranking Member,” she said.
Earlier Sunday, Pelosi said Conyers, who is in his 27th term, deserves “due process” before facing consequences over the accusations of sexual harassment.
Pelosi, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, wouldn’t say whether she believes he should resign.
“We are strengthened by due process. Just because someone is accused – was it one accusation? Is it two?” Pelosi said. “John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women.”
Pelosi said repeatedly that Conyers would “do the right thing,” but would not answer when asked whether the right thing would be resigning or something else.
“He will do the right thing in terms of what he knows about his situation,” she said. “He’s entitled to due process, but women are entitled to due process as well.”
“Women are saying zero tolerance, no more, and we’re going to speak out on it. This is so wholesome, so refreshing, so different,” Nancy Pelosi said.
(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Pelosi said an Ethics Committee probe would determine the veracity of the allegations. Hours before Conyers said he’d step down from the ranking member post, she wouldn’t say whether he would stay in that position.
Asked if she personally believed the accusers, she said, “I don’t know who they are. Do you? They have not really come forward.”
Speaking more broadly about the spate of sexual misconduct allegations, Pelosi said the turn toward “zero tolerance” was a good thing, before becoming more cautious when asked about Conyers’ case.
“Women are saying zero tolerance, no more, and we’re going to speak out on it. This is so wholesome, so refreshing, so different,” she said.
With Conyers out, New York Rep. Jerry Nadler becomes the ranking Democrat on the panel.
“Even under these unfortunate circumstances, the important work of the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee must move forward,” said Nadler (D-Manhattan and Brooklyn), who had been the second most senior Democrat.
“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.”