Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) on Friday continued her call for Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) to resign from Congress following multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
“Conyers says it didn’t happen,” CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Rice Friday morning. “You say he should resign. Why?”
“Because enough is enough,” Rice replied. “At this point what I am voicing publicly is what every single private citizen is saying across America: Why are the rules for politicians in Washington different than they are for everyone else?”
“And the list is endless,” she continued. “Compare what happened to Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Mark Halperin — all appropriate consequences. And yet once we start getting into the realm of politicians, well, let’s get the ethics commission into it, and let’s investigate this, you know, and take forever to come up with a conclusion.”
BuzzFeed News reported earlier this week on several former staffers of Conyers’ who said he inappropriately touched them and asked for sexual favors. Conyers has denied wrongdoing, but admitted to reaching a settlement with a former staffer — “in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation,” he said — who claimed she was fired for refusing his advances. The House Ethics Committee announced it would investigate the allegations.
Rice first called on Conyers to resign on Wednesday.
Cuomo asked Rice to address the criticism that Conyers had the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Rice, a federal prosecutor and Nassau County District Attorney before she was elected to Congress, said Conyers was dealing with the “court of public opinion.”
“We are not talking about a court of law here,” she said. “I have spent my entire career, before coming to Washington, as a prosecutor. This is not beyond a reasonable doubt. We don’t have any legal standard here. We are talking about the court of public opinion. We are talking about holding men accountable for their actions.”
Many victims of sexual harassment, she said, will never have “their day in court.”
“Right now, what we are talking about is, is there going to be any level of accountability?” she said. “And saying that we’re going to have these allegations against politicians go before an ethics committee, that can sometimes take a couple of years — no offense to my colleagues who are on the ethics committee, but that’s not real. That’s not real. And that’s not accountability.”
Congressional ethics committees, Rice said, ask “colleagues to judge their colleagues.”
Rice mentioned that “I’ve been there” and said she had had “an incident” in her first workplace, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, almost 30 years ago. Cuomo asked her about it.
“It was brutal,” she said. “And ultimately you don’t make things like that public because, as a woman in the workplace, if you say this is happening to me, you become a professional pariah. You don’t have any choice but to accept it. The workplace is not going to address the issue.”
“There’s no benefit to these women coming forward and saying this happened to me,” she added. “And we see woman after woman making these allegations saying there was a professional cost to me for coming forward.”
“And yet there isn’t for any of these men who are being accused. That has to change.”
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