After Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) was confronted with evidence of a sexual-harassment settlement in 2014, there was some confusion about the nature of his denial. By late yesterday, the Michigan Democrat’s office clarified matters, saying Conyers agreed to settle the case, though he insists he did nothing wrong, and he considered the $27,000 settlement to effectively serve as “a reasonable severance payment.”
Yesterday afternoon, another former Conyers aide raised similar allegations, claiming that he’d created “a hostile work environment” with unwanted advances, though the congressman’s office emphasized that the woman in this case ended up withdrawing her lawsuit.
The House Ethics Committee, which has already announced the start of an investigation, is poised to sort out what happened.
Later Tuesday, the House Ethics Committee said it had started an investigation into the allegations against Conyers, following calls from several Democrats in the chamber to do so.
“The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative John Conyers, Jr. may have engaged in sexual harassment of members of his staff, discriminated against certain staff on the basis of age, and used official resources for impermissible personal purposes,” the committee’s statement said in announcing its investigation.
Several Democratic House members, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who revealed earlier this month that she had been sexually assaulted when she was in her 20s by the chief of staff she was an aide to, had called on the committee to investigate Conyers.
Let’s note for context that Speier recently told a House panel that she’s aware of two current members of Congress – one Democrat and one Republican – who have engaged in sexual harassment during their service on Capitol Hill. She clarified last night that when she made these comments, she wasn’t referring to Conyers.
Regardless, Conyers’ political future remains in doubt, as evidenced by an editorial published overnight by the congressman’s hometown news, the Detroit Free Press, which called for his resignation in light of the allegations.