Democrat accused of harassment steps down from House committee leadership post but does not resign

  • John Conyers on Sunday announced he was stepping down as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
  • He did not resign, despite pressure from some Democrats to do so.
  • Multiple women have accused him of sexual misconduct, which he has denied.

Rep. John Conyers stepped down as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee on Sunday following reports that he settled with a former staff member who said she was fired after rebuffing his sexual advances.

“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 on Sunday.

Conyers reiterated that he denied allegations that he harassed several former staffers, instead criticising the far-right online provocateur Mike Cernovich, a conspiracy theorist who nevertheless helped surface the claims.

But the 88-year-old Michigan Democrat acknowledged that he could be a distraction from Democratic priorities while the House Ethics Committee investigates his behaviour.

“I have come to believe that my presence as Ranking Member of the Committee would not serve these efforts while the ethics committee investigation is pending,” Conyers said. “I cannot in good conscience allow these charges to 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.”

Democratic leaders have increasingly faced questions over whether Conyers should resign from the House altogether amid mounting claims against him.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was criticised Sunday after she defended the longtime Michigan Democrat, calling him an “icon” and dodging questions about whether he should resign.

She seemed to reverse course following Conyers’ decision to step aside, however, saying “no tolerance means consequences.”

“We are at a watershed moment on the issue, and no matter how great an individual’s legacy, it is not a licence for harassment,” Pelosi said. “I commend the women coming forward.”

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