The longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, said Sunday he is relinquishing his position as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee while allegations of sexual harassment against him are investigated.
The 88-year-old Conyers last week acknowledged he had reached a $27,000 settlement with a woman who formerly worked on his Washington staff who alleged Conyers fired her after she rebuffed a sexual advance from him. But Conyers continued to deny the allegation and said he settled the case only to avoid protracted litigation over her claim.
The House Ethics Committee is investigating whether Conyers used taxpayer money in his office funds to settle the case and whether he engaged in sexual harassment of other women.
“I deny these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger,” Conyers said. “I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family.”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said as a woman and mother, she takes any sexual harassment accusation very seriously and urges the ethics committee to quickly carry out its probe.
“We are at a watershed moment on this issue and no matter how great an individual’s legacy, it is not a license for harassment,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Allegations against Franken
Meanwhile, another well-known Democrat accuse of sexual harassment says he is “embarrassed and ashamed” by the charges against him.
Minnesota Senator Al Franken spoke to Minneapolis media Sunday, saying he “let a lot of people down and I’m hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust.”
Two weeks ago, a Los Angeles radio host posted a picture of a grinning Franken apparently grabbing her breasts while she appeared to be sleeping after performing for U.S. troops in 2006. Franken was a well-known television comedian and writer at the time.
Another woman alleges he cupped her behind while being photographed with Franken during his first Senate campaign in 2010.
Franken said he takes thousands of photographs and does not remember his accuser. But he said “this is not something I would intentionally do.” He has said he welcomes an ethics probe into his behavior.