WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Representative John Conyers faced additional fallout on Wednesday related to sexual harassment accusations made by former staffers, as a fellow Democrat called for his resignation and two more suggested he give up a prominent committee post.
The House of Representatives Ethics Committee said on Tuesday it was investigating the allegations, first reported on Monday by BuzzFeed News, that Conyers made unwanted sexual advances towards women who worked for him.
A separate Buzzfeed report on Tuesday, citing court documents, detailed allegations by another former staffer who said she suffered unwanted touching by Conyers “repeatedly and daily” while serving as the Michigan Democrat’s scheduler.
“Rep. John Conyers should resign. I’ve reviewed the allegations against him, and they’re as credible as they are repulsive,” Democratic Representative Kathleen Rice wrote in a statement.
The allegations, which Reuters was unable to independently confirm, also prompted Conyers’ hometown paper, the Detroit Free Press, to call for his resignation.
Conyers, 88, is the longest-serving House lawmaker and is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
In a statement on Tuesday that referred to the first BuzzFeed report, Conyers said he “expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made about me.”
In a subsequent statement on the second set of allegations, a Conyers spokesman told BuzzFeed the staffer had voluntarily decided to drop her case.
Democratic Representative Gregory Meeks called on Wednesday for Conyers to give up his senior post on the House Judiciary Committee. “I really think probably the appropriate thing right now is he should step down as the ranking member,” Meeks told CNN.
Democratic Representative Raul Grijalva, a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which Conyers is also a member, agreed, telling C-SPAN that “as agonizing as it might be for all of us, the ranking member needs to step down at the minimum.”
In its editorial on Tuesday, the Detroit Free Press said the allegations marked “the kind of behaviour that can never be tolerated in a public official, much less an elected representative of the people.”
Conyers’ office did not respond to a request for comment on his colleagues’ comments and the editorial.
Congress is reviewing its policies on how to handle sexual harassment complaints after a string of allegations against prominent figures in the U.S. news media, Hollywood and politics.
Reporting by Amanda Becker; Additional reporting by Eric Beech and Makini Brice; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney