In the midst of allegations of sexual harassment, Democrat John Conyers has resigned as the ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee. Conyers’ stepping up is a major shake-up in the Democratic Party and in Washington in general. Conyers is one of the longest-serving congressmen, serving for 59 years, as well as a legendary civil rights campaigner.
An investigation by the House Ethics Committee has been set up to establish any wrongdoing. Of particular concern are allegations that Conyers settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.” Other staffers have complained that Conyers committed a variety of workplace abuses, including sexual harassment.
In a statement he made this afternoon, Conyers had this to say:
“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 denies the allegations set against him, calling a report put forward by an alt-right blogger. The blogger, Michael Cernovich, is infamously known as a Trump support who perpetuated conspiracy theories such as ‘Pizzagate’ and who handed the documents in question to Buzzfeed News.
Despite his stepping down, some Democrats are calling for Conyers to step down and trigger a special election, lest he becomes a problem for them in 2018. There is some speculation that he is hoping to stay in his seat until his grand-nephew Ian Conyers can take over. Some Democrats are not prepared to let Conyers set up a dynastic succession of his district in Michigan and have privately said that they indeed to challenge Ian’s accession.
This also comes on the heels of Nancy Pelosi’s bizarre response to the allegations, insisting that Conyers had a proud legacy. She later retracted her statement, insisting that ‘An individual’s legacy is not an excuse for harassment.’
Conyers is the latest public figure to be dogged by sexual harassment scandals, along with Republican hopeful Roy Moore and fellow Democrat Al Franken, after the explosive revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s long list of sexual harassment claims. The Democrats are clearly concerned about being seen to take such matters seriously, more seriously than the President at least. Such matters may become important talking points as planning for the mid-term elections get underway.
Conyers seems intent on staying in his seat, but as the allegations mount up, the pressure on him and his party steadily mount up.