News & Politics

Pelosi Says Sexual Harassment Accusations Against Rep. Conyers 'Must Be Investigated'

Rep. John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich., speaks as House Democrats hold a news conference to call for presidential action on immigration on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Several women have accused Rep. John Conyers (a Democrat) of sexual harassment. They did this not publicly, in the media, but in court filings.

Another former staff member to Michigan Rep. John Conyers alleged that she endured persistent sexual harassment by the congressman, according to court documents.

A former scheduler in the Conyers’ office attempted to file a sealed lawsuit against him this February in the US District Court for the District of Columbia that alleges she suffered unwanted touching by the Democrat “repeatedly and daily.” She abandoned the lawsuit the next month, after the court denied her motion to seal the complaint.

The woman was not involved in the 2015 sexual harassment and wrongful dismissal complaint that Conyers settled in 2015, which was revealed Monday by BuzzFeed News, and is now under investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

The lawsuit centered on behavior that took place later, from 2015 to 2016, but involves similar allegations. The woman said that shortly after she started to work for Conyers he began to make sexual advances in the form of inappropriate comments and touching.

“These behaviors and actions were so common and pervasive that they created a hostile work environment,” she alleged.

Unlike the settlement agreement at the center of a BuzzFeed News investigation released Monday, these court filings are public documents. BuzzFeed News was not able to reach the woman for comment. We are redacting her name to protect her privacy.

The former staffer says in the court documents that she had a “fatherly affection” for Conyers and “extreme admiration and respect for his legislative work as a Civil Rights icon.” That’s why she was “extremely uncomfortable addressing this inappropriate behavior with Defendant Conyers nor did Plaintiff wish to embarrass or disparage Defendant Conyers by sharing her concerns with other members of the office staff.” In the end, she decided to ask a male staffer to be her “fake boyfriend,” hoping that this would discourage Conyers.

However, she charges in the filings, the congressman only became more determined to win her over. From May to July 2016, she says, he harassed her daily. That harassment included “rubbing on her shoulders, kissing her forehead, covering and attempting to hold her hand” and urging her to “visit” him at his own home.

As a result, the accuser says, she suffered from “insomnia, anxiety, depression and chest pains.”

With regards to the accusation dating from 2015, Conyers settled without admitting any wrongdoing. Of course, settling the matter is enough of an indication that something was wrong… which is why Conyers’ own leader in Congress, Nancy Pelosi, is calling for an investigation.

“Any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee,” Ms. Pelosi said, adding that there should be “zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying or abuse in the House.”

Rep. Conyers is one of the most influential and powerful members of Congress. He’s a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and holds the title of “Dean of the House.”