Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is the latest public figure at the center of a firestorm of controversy after a former staff member accused him of firing her for not having sex with him. While Conyers has admitted to settling a wrongful termination complaint, he has vigorously denied the claims.
Former Conyers staffers provided four signed affidavits alleging that Conyers – the 88-year-old ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee and the longest-serving representative – pestered female employees for sex and made inappropriate physical contact with them, Buzzfeed News reported.
Bundled with the descriptions of Conyers’ alleged lewd behavior was a former staffer’s claim that she was fired in 2015 because she wouldn’t “succumb to [his] sexual advances.” In a statement, Conyers denied that version of events.
“My office resolved the allegations – with an express denial of liability – in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation,” he said on Tuesday. “That should not be lost in the narrative.”
Conyers also questioned the notion that accusers should be believed even if they do not provide any evidence to substantiate their claims.
“The current media environment is bringing a much-needed focus to the important issue of preventing harassment in workplaces across the country,” he said. “However, equally important to keep in mind in this particular moment is the principle of due process and that those accused of wrongdoing are presumed innocent unless and until an investigation establishes otherwise.”
Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA) led the charge against Conyers, calling for an Ethics Committee investigation into the allegations.
“Any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee,” she said, demanding “zero tolerance for harassment, bullying or abuse in the House.”
President Trump offered words of support for the many accusers that have come forward in recent weeks, from Hollywood to Capitol Hill and beyond.
“Women are very special,” he said. “I think it’s a very special time because a lot of things are coming out, and I think that’s good for our society, and I think it’s very, very good for women. And I’m very happy a lot of these things are coming out, and I’m very happy it’s being exposed.”