Representative John Conyers has stepped down from the House Judiciary Committee, The NYT reports.
The decision came in light of multiple women coming forward with details of sexual harassment at the hands of Conyers. These accounts, initially published by BuzzFeed after receiving documents from alt-right blogger Mike Cernovich, included inappropriate touching and requests for sex acts from female aides, not to mention the contacting and transportation of women with whom the aides believed Conyers was having affairs.
Conyers and his lawyer Arnold Reed said Conyers came to the decision to step down after deliberating over the Thanksgiving weekend. They maintain that the accusations coming out now are part of an effort to force Conyers out—they point out that it was an “alt-right partisan blogger” that first paid for the documents that led to the news. Oddly, The NYT also reports that Reed stated that Conyers believes this is due to some Democrats “scheming for years” to push him out of the Judiciary Committee.
Both Conyers and similarly accused Senator Al Franken have their share of supporters. Franken has had multiple letters of support from dozens of women that he worked with on SNL and in the Senate, and some of Conyers’ former aides are trying to gather the same kind of support. 12 women released a statement on Sunday that said that when they worked with Conyers, he was “respectful” and “treated [them] as professionals.”
Like every other statement of support for accused harassers, these letters do not change the fact that multiple people are on the record with accounts (and in Franken’s case, photographic evidence) of sexual misconduct by these powerful men. Neither Conyers nor Franken seem inclined to resign in the face of these allegations, despite some calls for them to do so. Democrats seem unsure of how to play it on the whole, but are supporting launching ethics investigations into both men. A bipartisan effort to force sexual harassment violations to become public has also begun, spearheaded by Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA). Under their new bill, it would be illegal to keep settlements in sexual harassment cases secret (this bill is also aimed at criminals like Larry Nassar, the doctor who pled guilty to molesting hundreds of women and girls, including the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team).
The reckoning with sexual harassment continues on both sides of the aisle, as Republican candidate for Senate Roy Moore continues to not drop out of the race, despite evidence that he actively tried to date high-schoolers under the age of 16 while an attorney in Alabama. Republicans, much like Democrats with Conyers and Franken, bemoan the “distraction” these men pose to their legislative goals, and call for Moore to step down. Donald Trump, however, practically endorsed the alleged pedophile.