House minority leader reverses her position on embattled Michigan Rep. John Conyers.
Embattled Rep. John Conyers “sure as hell” will not be pressured into resigning, a lawyer for the 88-year-old Michigan congressman vowed Thursday, just an hour after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said he should step down amid sexual harassment allegations.
“Pelosi did not elect the congressman and she sure as hell will not pressure him to leave,” Conyers’ attorney Arnold Reed said.
The attorney went on to allude to a perceived double standard, noting that Sen. Al Franken, who is the subject of mounting sexual harassment complaints, has not been the subject of similar calls from within the Democratic Party.
“At the end of the day, I would suspect Pelosi would have to explain the difference between Franken and Conyers,” Reed said.
Earlier, at her weekly press briefing, Pelosi, D-Calif., called the allegations against Conyers “serious and disappointing,” quickly changing her tune on the congressman from earlier this week.
“I pray for Congressman Conyers, however, Congressman Conyers should resign,” Pelosi said Thursday. “He has served our Congress and shaped consequential legislation—zero tolerance means consequences for everyone—no matter the great legacy.”
Pelosi’s call for his resignation came after facing backlash for seemingly defending Conyers after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct. Despite Pelosi’s remarks, the Congressional Black Caucus has yet to call for Conyers’ resignation.
Following her statement, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., also said Conyers should resign.
“Yesterday, I said Congressman Conyers should do the right thing for the country, the institution, and, most importantly, the woman involved,” he said. “The right thing is for Congressman Conyers to resign.”
Later in the day, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-MD, weighed in in agreement.
“As I have said, the allegations against Rep. Conyers are serious and credible. As we continue to hear more, I think it is appropriate for him to resign,” Hoyer tweeted.
Pelosi’s directive for Conyers to abandon his seat came as the 88-year-old was admitted to a hospital in Detroit for a stress-related illness.
Conyers’ family spokesperson Sam Riddle told Fox affiliate WJBK on Thursday that Conyers was “resting comfortably with [his wife] Monica by his side,” but did not give further details about his condition.
“[John Conyers] is doing okay, as well as can be expected for a gentleman that’s approaching 90 years of age,” Riddle said.
At least three women have accused Conyers of sexual misconduct.
One of the women, Deanna Maher, 77, told Fox News Wednesday night that Conyers had engaged in three inappropriate incidents in the late 1990s, and that touched her without her consent, but that he also failed to protect her when one of his top staffers assaulted her.
In an interview on Fox News’ “The Story” with Martha MacCallum, Maher said the incident, which happened in 2001 when she was 61-years-old, was “pretty devastating.”
She said the unnamed staffer grabbed her, forced her against a wall and “stuck his tongue down my throat at my age.”
“I can’t tell you how ashamed I felt,” Maher said. “Dirty.”
Maher said she got “no protection” because Conyers “covered that whole thing up.”
Another Conyers accuser said on NBC’s “Today” showThursday that the Democratic congressman “violated my body” and often propositioned her for sex.
Marion Brown, a former staffer for Conyers, told NBC Thursday that the misconduct occurred regularly during her 11 years working on his staff.
“It was sexual harassment, violating my body, propositioning me, inviting me to hotels with the guise of discussing business and propositioning for sex,” Brown said Thursday. “He just violated my body, he’s touched me in different ways. It was very uncomfortable and very unprofessional.”
Brown described a specific encounter with Conyers, who has denied any wrongdoing, in a Chicago hotel room in 2005.
“He was undressed down to his underwear,” she said. “He asked me to satisfy him sexually. He pointed to genital areas of his body and asked me to touch him.”
“I was frozen shocked. I didn’t want to lose my job, I didn’t want to upset him. Also, he asked me to find other people that would satisfy him,” she said. “I just tried to escape. I did tell him that I was not going to do that and I did not feel comfortable.
According to NBC, Brown first came forward anonymously to BuzzFeed News on November 20, saying she was fired in 2014 for refusing Conyers’ sexual advances. That report ignited a wave of fresh accusations against Conyers, forcing him to resign from his post as ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee.
The House Ethics Committee is currently investigating Conyers, but as more women come forward with accounts of alleged sexual misconduct, the list of congressional colleagues calling for his resignation is growing.
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