Conyers announces retirement amid sexual harassment allegations: ‘My legacy can’t be compromised’

The congressman has endorsed his son in the race to replace him.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., speaks in Detroit, Monday, July 7, 2014. CREDIT: AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., speaks in Detroit, Monday, July 7, 2014. CREDIT: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the subject of a number of recent sexual harassment and abuse allegations, announced on a local radio show Tuesday morning that he would be retiring from the House immediately. Conyers, who said only that he was retiring Tuesday, but not resigning, denied any wrongdoing in the interview and endorsed his son to replace him in the House.

Two women have come forward in recent weeks to say Conyers abused or harassed them when they worked for him. Another woman alleges she was fired by Conyers after she rejected his advances and subsequently settled a wrongful dismissal claim with the congressman. Four other women have signed affidavits saying Conyers sexually harassed them when they worked for him as well. Conyers has denied all the allegations, and on Tuesday, wrote the accusations off as “politics.”

“Look, this goes with the issue of politics, the game of politics, which we’re in,” Conyers told host Mildred Gaddis. “We take what happens, we deal with it, we pass on and move on forward as we keep going, trying to make as much as we can of this tremendous opportunity that’s been given me for so long.”

Gaddis also asked Conyers whether he believes the allegations that have been made against him will impact his legacy.

Oh, absolutely not,” Conyers said. “My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now. This, too, shall pass. I want you to know that my legacy will continue through my children.”

Conyers then went on to say that “incidentally,” he was endorsing his son, John Conyers III, to replace him in Congress, adding, “I’m in the process of putting my retirement plans together and I will have more about that very soon.”

Gaddis asked Conyers to clarify what he meant.

“Thank you for helping me get this into focus,” Conyers said. “I am retiring.”

Conyers’ endorsement of his son’s candidacy is made even more complicated by the fact that Conyers’ grand-nephew, Michigan state Senator Ian Conyers, 29, also recently announced he will be running for Conyers’ seat.

“I’m currently in Israel on a fact finding mission with African American leaders from the Midwest,” Ian Conyers tweeted just minutes after his grand-uncle’s radio interview ended. “When I return to Detroit I look forward to our national media taking a thorough look at all candidates to replace my uncle @RepJohnConyers.”

Conyers’ announcement comes just days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several other top Democrats called for Conyers to resign. Pelosi’s call for Conyers’ job last Thursday was a 180 from her earlier comments: Last Sunday, Pelosi defended Conyers on Meet the Press, calling him an “icon” and dismissing his accusers’ claims. (She later reversed her position on that as well, saying that, after meeting with one of the women, she now believed the allegations.)

Conyers, 88, was hospitalized last week due to “stress.” He is the longest-serving member in the House.

News of Conyers’ departure comes amid a firestorm of sexual misconduct allegations made against other members of Congress, including Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). Last week, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) was also publicly named as the first sitting member of Congress known to have used a little-known Congressional account to settle an $84,000 sexual harassment claim brought by his former communications director in 2015. Farenthold announced Monday that he would pay back the $84,000 in taxpayer dollars.

Top Democrats, including Pelosi, have also called for. Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) to resign after BuzzFeed reported that, as a candidate, Kihuen allegedly sexually harassed his campaign finance director.

Franken, Farenthold, and Kihuen have all resisted any calls for their resignations.

Meanwhile, on Monday night, the Republican National Committee resumed funding Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who is for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacant seat in Alabama. Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct by nine women, several of whom were teenagers at the time, and one of whom was just 14.