By Frederick H. Lowe
U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a founding member of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus and the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, stepped down from his committee post on Sunday after a number of women had charged him with sexual harassment, sparking a Congressional investigation.
“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 Sunday afternoon.
“I deny these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger,” the statement said. “I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics.”
Buzz Feed News revealed earlier this month that one unidentified staffer received a $27,000 settlement from Congress for wrongful dismissal from Conyers’ office in 2015.
Melanie Sloan, a former Capitol Hill staffer for Conyers’ office, said during a television interview that on one occasion Conyers was dressed only in his undershorts and a shirt while working in his office.
Sloan admitted that Conyers did not approach her with sexual intentions. She also claimed Conyers yelled at her several times in the 1990s.
In the charged atmosphere of Washington, D.C., yelling and temper flare ups are common.
For example, the late U.S. Sen. John Heinz (R., Pennsylvania) angrily yanked his telephone out of the office wall so often that the telephone company refused to repair it.
The Washington Post named Maria Reddick, the congressman’s former scheduler, as the person who filed but later dropped a claim last February, accusing Conyers of inappropriate sexual advances.
After Conyers had stepped down, 12 former staffers who are women claimed Conyers never behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner.
“Mr. Conyers was respectful, valued our opinions and challenged our thinking,” the women said.
The 88-year-old Conyers was first elected to Congress in 1964. He represents Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. Previously, he represented Michigan’s 14th Congressional District.
Conyers is one of the 13 founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which was organized in 1971. The CBC has 49 members.