House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Monday evening that she met with a former staffer to Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Melanie Sloane, who accused the congressman of sexual misconduct. Pelosi said she believes the woman.
“This afternoon, I spoke with Melanie Sloan, who worked for Congressman Conyers on the Judiciary Committee in the mid-1990s. Ms. Sloan told me that she had publicly discussed distressing experiences while on his staff. I find the behavior Ms. Sloan described unacceptable and disappointing. I believe what Ms. Sloan has told me,” Pelosi said in a Monday evening statement.
Sloan told the Washington Post last week that Conyers verbally abused her when she worked for the congressman on the House Judiciary Committee in the 1990s. Sloan said that she would not characterize Conyers’ actions toward her as sexual harassment but said that the congressman often berated her. She also told the Washington Post that on one occasion when Conyers summoned her to his office, she found Conyers dressed only in his underwear.
“I was pretty taken aback to see my boss half-dressed,” Sloan told the Washington Post. “I turned on my heel and I left.”
Sloan told the Washington Post that she reported Conyers’ behavior to her supervisor and told a senior staffer to then-House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) at the time. Sloan said her complaints were ignored.
“There was nothing I could do to stop it,” she told the Post. “Not going to leadership, not going to my boss, not going to a women’s group, not going to a reporter. I was dismissed and told I must be mentally unstable.”
Pelosi said Monday evening that Sloan gave her “valuable feedback into the substantive reforms many of us in Congress are advocating to foster a climate of respect and dignity, and to protect legislative branch employees.”
“I have not had the opportunity to speak with the other women, one of whom cannot speak publicly because of the secretive settlement process in place. That ridiculous system must be ended and victims who want to come forward to the Ethics Committee must be able to do so,” Pelosi added.
Pelosi has called for a House Ethics Committee investigation into the allegations against Conyers, but she has not called on the congressman to step down. Amid allegations of sexual misconduct from several former female staffers, Conyers has stepped down from his role as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.