Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has denied allegations of sexual harassment detailed in an article published by BuzzFeed on Monday that revealed his office had settled at least one complaint with a former aide.
“I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so,” Rep. Conyers said in a statement on Tuesday, which can be found in full below.
BuzzFeed’s report says that Rep. Conyers’ office settled a sexual harassment complaint in 2015 by $27,000 to the alleged victim. The woman claimed she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances,” BuzzFeed reported. BuzzFeed was sent documents from the complaint, in which four former staff members said they had witnessed unwanted touching, sexual advances, and transporting women who aides suspected the Congressman was having extramarital affairs with.
Beyond the allegations of sexual harassment, the BuzzFeed article spells out the process of reporting sexual harassment at a congressional office: “[C]ongressional employees have 180 days to report a sexual harassment incident to the Office of Compliance, which then leads to a lengthy process that involves counseling and mediation, and requires the signing of a confidentiality agreement before a complaint can go forward.”
You can then select an administrative hearing (and possibly reach a settlement) or go to federal district court.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) is already working on legislation to overhaul the Office of Compliance to add transparency to the process, including naming members who have settled complaints.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called the report “extremely troubling.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also responded, saying, “As I have said before, any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee.”
Two Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, on which Conyers is a ranking member, have called for an ethics investigation.
Rep. Conyers, 88, is a senior House member, and a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. He has also faced an ethics investigation in 2016, over payments to his former chief of staff.
His entire statement is below:
“I have long been and continue to be a fierce advocate for equality in the workplace and I fully support the rights of employees who believe they have been harassed or discriminated against to assert claims against their employers. That said, it is important to recognize that the mere making of an allegation does not mean it is true. The process must be fair to both the employee and the accused. The current media environment is bringing a much-needed focus to the important issue of preventing harassment in workplaces across the country. However, equally important to keep in mind in this particular moment is the principle of due process and that those accused of wrongdoing are presumed innocent unless and until an investigation establishes otherwise. In our country, we strive to honor this fundamental principle that all are entitled to due process. In this case, I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so. My office resolved the allegations – with an express denial of liability – in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation. That should not be lost in the narrative. The resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment. There are statutory requirements of confidentiality that apply to both the employee and me regarding this matter. To the extent the House determines to look further at these issues, I will fully cooperate with an investigation.”