Against all odds, Conyers refuses to resign

The Democratic congressman is facing calls to step down, while checking into a hospital due to "stress."

In this file photo from Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., attends a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. CREIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file
In this file photo from Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., attends a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. CREIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), facing a firestorm of abuse and sexual harassment allegations, calls from top Democrats for his job, and hospital admission, is still refusing to resign.

“Nancy Pelosi did not elect the congressman, and she sure as hell won’t be the one to tell the congressman to leave,” Conyers’ attorney, Arnold Reed, said Thursday, responding to the minority leader’s request on that Conyers step down.

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Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, was hospitalized due to stress this week. Political consultant Sam Riddle told a CNN affiliate Thursday morning that the 88-year-old was reportedly back in his home district.

The Michigan congressman is facing a handful of sexual misconduct allegations. Two women have come forward publicly to say Conyers abused or harassed them while they worked for him. Another woman says she settled a wrongful dismissal claim with the congressman after she was fired. The woman claims she was terminated because she rejected Conyers’ advances. Conyers denies any wrongdoing and says he only settled the claim to avoid a fight.

Four other women signed affidavits saying that Conyers had sexually harassed them as well.

In Washington, calls for Conyers to resign have since begun to grow.

“Congressman Conyers should resign,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference Thursday morning, a far cry from her earlier remarks in which she defended Conyers during a Meet the Press interview, calling him “an icon.” On Monday, Pelosi met with one of the women, Melanie Sloan, who says Conyers abused her; the minority leader subsequently released a statement saying she found Sloan credible.

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Reporters were so shocked by Pelosi’s sudden reversal on Thursday that one asked her to clarify if she had in fact called on Conyers to resign.

Pelosi joins several other Democrats in calling for Conyers’ job: Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and Jim Clyburn (D-SC) have also urged Conyers to step down.

“I think he should do for his constituents what he did for his colleagues,” Clyburn told reporters, referring to Conyers’ decision to step aside as the ranking member on the powerful House Judiciary Committee. “I told him [resigning from Congress] would be in his best interest.”

The first member from Conyers’ state, Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), joined those calls Thursday afternoon as well.

However, one Democratic House aide told ThinkProgress he felt the calls for Conyers’ resignation Thursday were irresponsible. Instead, Democrats should be fighting the Republicans’ “ponzi scheme”, which would “destroy” lives and “cripple” social safety net programs, he said.

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“Democratic circular firing squad in full effect,” the aid said in a text message. “Absolutely ridiculous. Seriously… We’re gonna fuck around and the tax bill is gonna pass next week.”

Conyers isn’t the only congressional Democrat facing a firestorm of sexual harassment allegations. As of Thursday afternoon, six women have come forward accusing Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) of sexual harassment. On Thursday, Jezebel reported that a that Franken had attempted to give a former elected official in New England a “wet, open-mouthed kiss” onstage at an event in 2006. The woman told Jezebel she was “stunned and incredulous.”

Neither Pelosi nor Democratic leadership in the Senate have called for Franken to resign, something that’s angered Conyers’ lawyers.

“I would suspect that Nancy Pelosi is going to have to explain what is the discernible difference between Al Franken and John Conyers,” Reed, Conyers’ attorney, told reporters on Thursday.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) said Thursday that he, too, sees no discernible difference between Franken and Conyers.

“I agree with Pelosi. Conyers should resign. And for that matter, Franken should resign too,” Ryan tweeted. “These are credible allegations, and I believe these women. Congress should set the example for all industries and be a safe place for women to work.”

Correction: An earlier version of this piece referred to Rep. Dan Kildee as Rep. Jon Kildee.