House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Tuesday afternoon called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate the sexual harassment allegations against Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) that surfaced Monday night.
“As members of Congress, we each have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the House of Representatives and to ensure a climate of dignity and respect, with zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying or abuse. As I have said before, any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement.
BuzzFeed News reported Monday night that Conyers’ office paid a settlement to a former staffer who alleged that she was fired after refusing the congressman’s sexual advances. In affidavits obtained by BuzzFeed, several Conyers staffers described the congressman’s behavior toward female employees, which allegedly included rubbing a staffer’s leg, rubbing a staffer’s hand and inviting female staffers to stay with him in his hotel room.
Conyers on Tuesday acknowledged that he paid the settlement to the staffer but denied the allegations.
“I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so,” he said in a statement. “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.”
In her Tuesday afternoon statement, Pelosi also called for Congress to pass the Me Too Act, legislation sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) in the House that would overhaul the system for filing and addressing complaints of sexual harassment in Congress.
Under the current system, staffers must undergo counseling before they can file a sexual harassment complaint, and the accusers are not provided legal counsel. Speier argues that these two factors make the process burdensome for victims. It was revealed recently that the Office of Compliance, which handles sexual misconduct complaints, has paid out more than $17 million in settlements over the past 20 years.