John Conyers

Name: John Conyers

Age: 88

Role: U.S. Congressman (D-Mich), top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee & longest-standing African-American in Congress, having first been elected in 1965

Accusations: Numerous former female employees have accused Conyers of inappropriate sexual misconduct, most of which can be characterized as unwanted groping and unwelcome propositions for sex.

Lisa Bloom is the attorney representing several of the women. She tweeted out their sworn affidavits on Dec 4, 2017.

Two of Conyers’ accusers have told their stories in video interviews, which you can find on the “Accusers” tab, below.

Consequences for his actions: Resigned on Dec 5, 2017. Hospitalized for several days, shortly after the accusations became public.

Conyer’s Response: Conyers vehemently denies any wrongdoing. You can read the full text of his public statement on the “Response” tab, below.

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Allegations against Conyers were first published by BuzzFeed News on Nov 20, 2017, after their investigation revealed numerous anonymous staffers who had been sexually harassed by the Congressman. At least one male employee said he frequently witnessed inappropriate touching, comments and other behavior by Conyers toward female staffers. 

But the allegations themselves have been overshadowed by the fact that they’ve brought to light the shocking process used by Capitol Hill to handle harassment accusations of all kinds. It’s a process that many who have gone through it said is almost as traumatic as the harassment and assault itself; others have said that the process is explicitly designed to coerce victims to remain silent. 

MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt explained in a minute and 40 seconds why the process is so convoluted: Why women on Capitol Hill don’t report sexual harassment, Vox.com, by Emily Stewart, Nov 20, 2017

These revelations have prompted lawmakers including Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Ca) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Ca) to introduce legislation to overhaul the complaint process. 

Besides being an abusive process, the public has been outraged to learn that the settlements are paid for with taxpayer money. In Conyers case, he settled a sexual harassment claim with Marion Brown in 2015 for more than $27,000 – but paid for it out of his office budget, which is taxpayer money. (Blake Farenthold (R-Tx) is also being investigated by the ethics committee for having improperly settled a 2014 sexual harassment claim for $84,000). 

All of this is well detailed in BuzzFeed, including an easy to understand infographic outlining the current complaint process for the Congressional Office of Compliance. 

She said a powerful congressman harassed her. Here’s why you didn’t hear her story
BuzzFeed News
by Paul McLeod and Lissandra Villa
Nov 21, 2017

Conyers held out for weeks after the allegations first began coming out, insisting that he was innocent of all wrongdoing. But finally on Dec 5, 2017 he announced his “retirement,” effective immediately. 

Conyers is an African-American legend. The longest-sitting African-American in Congress, Conyers first took his seat in 1965, making him also the last sitting Congressman to have helped enact the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960’s. 

~ Julia Kline, editor

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Marion Brown 

“Some of the things that he did, it was sexual harassment,” Ms. Brown said on the Today Show on Nov 30, 2017, after having first told her story anonymously to BuzzFeed News.

“Violating my body, propositioning me, inviting me to hotels with the guise of discussing business and then propositioning for sex. He just violated my body. He has touched me in different ways, and it was very uncomfortable and very unprofessional.”

“I tried to get another job with another member of Congress, and I was blackballed. Nobody wanted to touch me. And I’m still going through backlash, because he resigned without admitting doing anything wrong.”

Ms. Brown was paid a $27,000 settlement in 2015 by John Conyers. He used his office budget – taxpayer money – to make the payment. 

Marion Brown speaks on the record for the first time about her allegations of sexual harassment against Congressman John Conyers

Melanie Sloan

Sloan, now a high-profile Washington lawyer specializing in congressional ethics, was the first of Conyers’ accusers to come forward on the record.

She says Conyers harassed and verbally abused her when she worked for him on Capitol Hill in the 1990s and that her repeated appeals for help to congressional leadership were ignored. Specifically, Sloan told then-Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), the House minority leader at the time. Gephardt now says he doesn’t recall those conversations with Sloan. 

“There was nothing I could do to stop it,” Melanie Sloan said in an interview. “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.” 

Ethics Lawyer Says Conyers Mistreated Her During Years on Capitol Hill
The Washington Post
by Kimberly Kindy, Steve Hendrix and Michelle Ye Hee Lee
Nov 22, 2017

Deanna Maher

Deanna Maher ran Conyers’s Michigan district congressional office from 1997 to 2005.

In Ms. Maher’s story in the Detroit News below, she explained that she didn’t go public at the time because Conyers was a powerful man in Washington, and nobody wanted to cross him. She also said that the reason she stayed in his employment for so long (from 1997-2005) was that she needed the job. 

“I needed to earn a living, and I was 57. How many people are going to hire you at that age?” she said.

The first instance of harassment happened, Maher said, shortly after the congressman hired her in September 1997 during an event with the Congressional Black Caucus. “I didn’t have a room, and he had me put in his hotel suite,” said Maher, 77, adding that she rejected his offer to share his room at the Grand Hyatt in Washington and have sex.

The other incidents with the now 88-year-old Conyers involved unwanted touching in a car in 1998 and another unwanted touching of her legs under her dress in 1999, she said.

Second ex-staffer accuses Conyers of harassment
The Detroit News
by George Hunter
Nov 28, 2017

Maher tells these stories in her own voice below, in this interview with CNN’s Sara Ganim on Nov 28, 2017.

Maria Reddick

Reddick, Conyers’ former scheduler, said she was fired over her complaints about Conyers’s conduct – conduct that included “rubbing on her shoulders, kissing her forehead, making inappropriate comments, covering and attempting to hold her hand,” according to her complaint. 

“If that happened to me, and I’m a pretty strong person, what is happening to everyone else?” she said.

Reddick’s complaint sought about $110,000 in back pay and damages. When a court refused to keep her case under seal, she voluntarily dropped it. 

Elisa Grubbs 

Grubbs tells her story in the Washington Examiner

“Witnessing Rep. Conyers rub women’s thighs and buttocks and make comments about women’s physical attributes was a regular part of life while working in the Office of Rep. Conyers,” she said.

Former Female Staffer Accuses John Conyers of Rubbing Her Thighs While Sitting In Front Row at Church
The Washington Examiner
by Melissa Quinn
Dec 5, 2017

The Washington Post also reports on Grubbs’ story: “Grubbs, who was a Conyers staff member from 2001 to 2013, said the lawmaker exposed himself to her on one occasion and inappropriately touched her numerous times.

“In a sworn affidavit released Monday by her lawyer, Lisa Bloom, Grubbs said Conyers would routinely sit “close to me while stroking and rubbing my thighs.” She said that on one occasion, when she was at Conyers’s home, he “came out of the bathroom completely naked.”

Conyers accusers described sexual advances and inappropriate remarks
The Washington Post
by Kimberly Kindy
Dec 5, 2017

Courtney Morse

Morse, 36, was an intern in Conyers’s office in 2001. She abruptly left her internship a few weeks early, she said, after Conyers drove her home after work one night, wrapped his hand around hers as it rested in her lap, and told her he was interested in a sexual relationship. Morse said she rejected his advances. – The Washington Post

Conyers accusers described sexual advances and inappropriate remarks
The Washington Post
by Kimberly Kindy
Dec 5, 2017

More details about Morse’s story, as told to the Post, are in this article: 

Conyers faced mounting sexual misconduct allegations as he weighed his future
The Washington Post
by Kimberly Kindy 
Dec 5, 2017

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Conyers was forced to resign his seat in the House, effective immediately, on Dec 5, 2017. 

Conyers was also hospitalized for several days around the same time. Family members and other representatives of Conyers said it was for stress-induced conditions caused by the media attention on the allegations. 

Conyers has consistently and vehemently denied any wrongdoing, saying in part, “My office resolved the allegations – with an express denial of liability – in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation.”

Conyers’ lawyer, Arnold E Reed, has also repeatedly and vehemently denied that Conyers is guilty of any wrongdoing, calling the incidents “tomfoolery,” or flat-out denying they ever happened. 

Two men in Conyers’ employee, former congressional aide Shawn Campbell and security guard James Marbury deny ever having seen any behavior that looked to them like it was inappropriate. 

Here’s Conyers’ full statement, as published in BuzzFeed News, by Paul McLeod and Lissandra Villa, Nov 21, 2017 (the statement is at the very bottom of the article): 

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There has been MUCH commentary from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as to whether Conyers should step down or not; as well as sidebar commentary about what should happen to all the other elected officials accused of sexual misconduct, including President Trump. 

This article pretty well rounds up the highlights: Conyers says he “vehemently” denies the sexual harassment allegations against him, BuzzFeed News, by Paul McLeod and Lissandra Villa, Nov 21, 2017.

Conyers was one of only two Democrats in Congress accused of sexual misconduct (the other being Senator Al Franken) during the run-up to the hotly contested Alabama Senate race between Roy Moore (R) and Doug Jones (D) on Dec 12, 2017. One of the big issues in that race was that Roy Moore has been accused of sexual assault by 9 women, including several who were young teenagers when Moore, a man in his late 20’s, pursued them sexually.

It’s been suggested that Democratic lawmakers were eager to present themselves as holding the higher ground as compared to Roy Moore. So if they were going to insist that Moore was unfit to hold office on grounds that he was a sexual predator, then they’d be hypocrites if they didn’t demand that Conyers and Franken step down as well. 

Never mind the fact that of the 10 national political figures accused of sexual harassment and assault in 2017, 7 were Republicans; and only 2 (Trent Franks and Tim Murphy) immediately resigned their seats. 

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