Tuesday morning, Congressman John Conyers announced his immediate retirement and went on to endorse his son John Conyers III to take his seat.
The 88-year-old Conyers made his decision two weeks after sexual harassment allegations first surfaced, and after returning to his Detroit-area district last week to discuss his political future with family and advisers. The democratic Michigan representative said in a local radio interview Tuesday on Praise 102.7’s “The Mildred Gaddis Show”:
“I am retiring today. I want everyone to know how much I appreciate people’s support.”
The most recent accusations surfaced Monday, detailing how more than a decade ago, Conyers allegedly slid his hand up a woman’s skirt and rubbed her thighs while they sat next to each other in church. This latest accusation came after Conyers was hospitalized as soon as he returned home. Conyers has denied the allegations against him.
Days after the first allegations surfaced on November 20th, Conyers stepped down as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. But fellow party members had increasingly called for him to step aside including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California. She said last week that Conyers should resign, amid increasing accusations and backlash for her calling him an “icon” on women’s issues and suggesting an ethics investigation must come before any decisions are made. Pelosi said Thursday:
“Congressman Conyers should resign. He has served our Congress and shaped consequential legislation (but) zero tolerance means consequences for everyone — no matter the great legacy.”
Still, he has some Capitol Hill support from the Congressional Black Caucus, which Conyers helped found, with the group saying the accusations are serious but did not call for his resignation.
The news website BuzzFeed reported back on November 20th that Conyers’ office paid a woman more than $27,000 under a confidentiality agreement to settle a complaint in 2015 that she was fired from his Washington staff because she rejected his sexual advances.
The House Ethics Committee announced the following day it started an investigation into Conyers, after receiving allegations of sexual harassment and age discrimination involving staff members and about the congressman using “official resources for impermissible personal purposes.”
Later that week, lawyer who worked with Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee, Melanie Sloan, said she was called into the congressman’s office to discuss an issue and found him “walking around in his underwear.” She also says Conyers often screamed at her, fired and re-hired her, criticized her for not wearing stockings and once even ordered her to baby-sit one of his children.
Monday’s allegation that went public was from Elise Grubbs, a cousin of another accuser, Marion Brown. Brown reached a confidential settlement with Conyers over sexual harassment allegations, but broke the confidentiality agreement to speak publicly last week. In an affidavit made public, Grubbs says she worked for Conyers in various roles from about 2001 to about 2013. She also said that she saw Conyers touching and stroking the legs and buttocks of Brown and other female staffers on “multiple occasions.”
Conyers is among several D.C. lawmakers — including Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken and Texas GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold — facing problems amid the recent wave of sexual-misconduct allegations hitting Capitol Hill.
Listen to Conyers’ retirement announcement here: