By Elise Viebeck and David Weigel
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called on Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., to resign Thursday, describing allegations of sexual harassment by multiple former aides as “credible” and “disappointing.”
Conyers, 88, the longest-serving member of Congress, is accused of mistreating female aides over two decades, including alleged episodes of verbal abuse, inappropriate touching and sexual advances. He has denied wrongdoing and said through his attorney that he has no plans to resign or retire from the House.
Conyers has been hospitalized in the Detroit area for a stress-related illness, according to a family spokesman, who confirmed the news just as a woman who settled a sexual harassment complaint with him identified herself publicly for the first time and described her experience on national television.
In an interview with NBC’s “Today Show,” former Conyers aide Marion Brown identified herself as the woman who settled a sexual harassment complaint with him in 2015. She said Conyers touched her inappropriately and invited her to a Chicago hotel room to discuss business before propositioning her for sex.
“He asked me to satisfy him sexually,” Brown told NBC’s Today Show. “He pointed to areas of, genital areas of his body, and asked me to, you know, touch it.”
“It was sexual harassment, violating my body, propositioning me for sex,” she said.
Conyers continues to deny charges that he behaved inappropriately with women who worked for him. Family spokesman Sam Riddle said the congressman was hospitalized in part because of “this media assault” over the harassment allegations.
“If the media would take the time to go after pedophiles, known pedophiles . . . you might have something and you could leave congressman Conyers alone,” Riddle told reporters outside the lawmaker’s home in Detroit. A video recording of the statement was later posted online by Local 4, a Detroit media outlet.
“We hope you will also understand that there’s a double-edged sword for those that would accuse,” Riddle said.
Conyers and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., have become central figures in a national debate over how Congress should address allegations of sexual harassment by lawmakers and their aides. Both are under investigation by congressional ethics committees, and neither has said he will resign.
Franken was accused Thursday of inappropriate touching by a fifth woman. He has never “intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct,” his office responded in a statement.