On Sunday, Nov. 26, Representative John Conyers announced he's stepping down as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. The Democrat representing Michigan made the announcement following reports of workplace abuses, including sexual harassment. Conyers has denied these allegations. Conyers' stepping down comes as the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into the allegations.
"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, which he posted to Twitter.
Conyers added in his statement that he denies the allegations, "many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger," and that he "very much" looks forward to "vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics."
The allegations to which Conyers is referring were initially reported by BuzzFeed on Nov. 20. According to that report, BuzzFeed obtained four signed affidavits from former staff members claiming that Conyers made sexual advances to female staff. The report says that Conyers settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 after an employee alleged she was fired for not accepting sexual advances. Conyers told BuzzFeed he "vehemently denied" sexual harassment claims.
BuzzFeed obtained the documents from Mike Cernovich, an alt-right-leaning supporter of conspiracy theories, including Pizzagate. Cernovich told BuzzFeed he provided them the documents so that Democrats could not "try to discredit the story by attacking the messenger." BuzzFeed independently confirmed the documents' authenticity, the reporters — Paul McLeod and Lissandra Villa — wrote.
In his statement on Sunday, Nov. 26, Conyers expanded that "would like very much to remain as Ranking Member" of the House Judiciary Committee as there is still more work to be done on "securing civil rights, enacting meaningful criminal justice reform, and protecting access to the ballot box." This is especially relevant, he wrote, as the country has "an Administration that cares little for the rule of law and a President whose actions and conduct cheapens our discourse every day."
However, Conyers wrote, he is stepping down so that the Ethic Committee investigation does not "undermine my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus, and my friends on both sides of the aisle in the Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives." Conyers said he is "proud and fortunate" to be part of a legacy fighting for civil rights and justice, adding that he will not allow that legacy "to be cast aside, or these causes to be in any way diminished."
Conyers ended his statement by writing that he is "grateful to my colleagues who have called for due process before weighting judgement" and that he urges those colleagues "to continue to do so for any Member accused of wrongdoing."
During an appearance on NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday morning, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi emphasized waiting for "due process" for Conyers, saying that she supports the Ethics Committee investigation. She did not say if she would suspend him.
The allegations against Conyers come as politics is facing its own discussions about sexual harassment within the industry. A handful of politicians — including Conyers, Al Franken, and President Donald Trump — have been accused of sexual misconduct. Franken has called for an ethics investigation on himself. The White House's official stance is that all of the women who have made claims about Trump are liars. On Tuesday, Nov. 21, two state legislators from Minnesota — Representative Tony Cornish, a Republican, and Senator Dan Schoen, a Democrat — resigned after being accused of harassing multiple women in state politics, The New York Times reported.
While Conyers denies the accusations, the House Ethics Committee is making an investigation.