Accusations: 2 women accuse Franks, a staunch conservative, of having asked them to be a surrogate for his child in exchange for $5 million – not through artificial insemination, but “the old-fashioned way.” AP News, Dec 8, 2017, by Juliet Linderman
Consequences for his actions: Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) referred Franks’s case to the Ethics Committee and told Franks to resign, which Franks did, at the end of January, 2018. Read the House Ethics Committee Statement
Franks’s Response: Issued a statement saying that any investigation would become hyper sensationalized and would harm his family; so he was choosing to resign immediately, before an investigation could be conducted. Read Trent Franks’s full statement here.
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.
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.
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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“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.
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.”
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.
Maher tells these stories in her own voice below, in this interview with CNN’s Sara Ganim on Nov 28, 2017.
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.
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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Role: US Congressman (R-Pa); sits on the House Ways and Means Committee
Accusations: Settled a lawsuit with a young aide, who accused him of sexual harassment. He called her his “soul mate” and signed a handwritten letter to her, “With all of my heart, Patrick.”
Consequences for his actions: Meehan will not seek reelection in 2018; is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee, a committee from which he has been removed.
Meehan’s Response: He has denied wrongdoing: “I intend to keep fighting for my constituents until the end of my term,” he wrote Thursday in a letter to his campaign chairman. Read the full letter in the Washington Post. He tried to characterize his payout to the aide as “severance,” not a settlement.
In attempting to clear things up, he made it so much worse by calling the aide his “soul mate” in an interview. He also sent her a handwritten letter which he signs, “With all of my heart, Patrick.” He also said that while he remained devoted to his wife, it was just going to take him some time to get over the fact that she, the young aide, now had a boyfriend.
Read the interview and see a screenshot of his handwritten letter in the Inquirer’s story, below.
A married father of three, Mr. Meehan, 62, had long expressed interest in the personal life of the aide, who was decades younger and had regarded the congressman as a father figure, according to three people who worked with the office and four others with whom she discussed her tenure there.
But after the woman became involved in a serious relationship with someone outside the office last year, Mr. Meehan professed his romantic desires for her — first in person, and then in a handwritten letter — and he grew hostile when she did not reciprocate, the people familiar with her time in the office said.
Life in the office became untenable, so she initiated the complaint process, started working from home and ultimately left the job. She later reached a confidential agreement with Mr. Meehan’s office that included a settlement for an undisclosed amount to be paid from Mr. Meehan’s congressional office fund.
John Elizandro, Mr. Meehan’s communications director, issued a statement saying that the congressman “denies these allegations” and “has always treated his colleagues, male and female, with the utmost respect and professionalism.”
Meehan wrote in a letter to his campaign chairman that was obtained by The Washington Post:
“Unfortunately, recent events concerning my office and the settlement of certain harassment allegations have become a major distraction. I need to own it because it is my own conduct that fueled the matter. … It is clear to me, that under the current conditions, any campaign I would run would not be decided over vital issues but would likely devolve into an ugly spectacle of harsh rhetoric. I do not believe that is in the best interest of the constituents I represent.”
Molly Sheehan, one of Meehan’s Democratic challengers, posted on Facebook that “Pat Meehan should no longer be allowed to create the laws and systems which are meant to protect women and he should resign immediately.”
Elizabeth Moro, another Democratic candidate, posted about the story after Saturday’s women’s march in Philadelphia. She wrote, “This is the culture we marched against today.”
Protesters held a successful event on Jan 22, 2018, calling for him to resign. See it on Twitter.
Republicans in PA were much more easy-going on Meehan, citing his denials and calling for an investigation to reveal more facts. Read the Philadelphia Inquirer story from Jan 23, 2018 by Jonathan Tamari and Andrew Seidman.
The following responses from lawmakers were all quoted in the Washington Post, by Elise Viebeck, Jan 26, 2017
Rep. Glenn Grothman (R) said he thought Meehan should step down. “Hopefully, he will be headed out really quickly. You can’t force him out, but I know [House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.)] stripped him of one of his committees, and so hopefully he’s on the way out.”
Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement Thursday that he was “disappointed by the circumstances” that prompted Meehan’s decision, but thanked him for his “dedication to his district.”
Virginia state Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-Loudoun), who is running to unseat Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) in Northern Virginia, demanded Friday that Comstock repay $8,000 that Meehan had contributed to her campaign.
Role: Former host of “A Prairie Home Companion” on Minnesota Public Radio
Accusations: The initial allegations against Keillor sounded innocuous enough; but it later came out that his abuse of power was as bad as anyone else’s.
Company Reaction: Fired from MPR
Keillor’s Response: “I’ve been fired over a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard. It’s some sort of poetic irony to be knocked off the air by a story, having told so many of them myself, but I’m 75 and don’t have any interest in arguing about this.”
Role: Co-host of CBS This Morning; also a “60 Minutes” correspondent and host of his own program on PBS.
Accusations: 8 women have accused Rose of sexual harassment
Company Reaction: Fired from CBS News and PBS on Nov. 21, 2017.
Rose’s Response:”I have behaved insensitively at times, and I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate. I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.”
This excellent, in-depth article details not only what happened, but WHY it happened, and why it was so insidious. Why women found it so difficult to fight against Thrush’s insidiously innocuous brand of harassment and belittling.
Accusations: A dozen women have accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.
Company Reaction: Fired from Nickelodeon
Savino’s Response: Savino wrote on Facebook: “I am deeply sorry and I am ashamed. Although it was never my intention, I now understand that the impact of my actions and my communications created an uncomfortable environment.”
“Chris Savino is no longer working with Nickelodeon. We take allegations of misconduct very seriously, and we are committed to fostering a safe and professional workplace environment that is free of harassment or other kinds of inappropriate conduct,” a Nickelodeon spokesperson said Thursday.
Nickelodeon Group president Cyma Zarghami also issued a memo to staff:
Nickelodeon is incredibly successful at the moment and continues to thrive because of the people who work here. You put your heart and soul into what you do. And we are committed to giving you the tools and resources you need to succeed and thrive here.
Something we have long provided, as has the whole of Viacom, is a commitment to fostering a safe and professional workplace environment. It is one of our foundational principles, and it is non-negotiable.
This principle is not an idea that can be pushed solely from the top down. It is everyone’s responsibility to contribute to our culture, to value one another, and to promote inclusivity and respect on all levels.
I have been at the company for more than 30 years, and since the beginning of my time here, I have come into the office, and left it every day, feeling that we are doing good work, that we are good people, and that it is a privilege and responsibility to create great characters and stories for kids.
In the current climate, it feels necessary to say that if you should encounter an uncomfortable situation at work, or witness one, you are safe to speak up. If you hear something, and are unsure of what to do, you are safe to tell your supervisor or Human Resources. If you need help, in any way, you are safe to ask for it.
We value each and every one of you just as much as we collectively value our audience, and I am proud of the incredible brand and business we have built.
This long and detailed article enumerates not just the allegations against Ratner, but also the pervasive culture of abuse that allowed him to get away with it. It describes supporters of Ratner saying that he was “just hitting on beautiful women,” apparently not recognizing that pervasive unwanted actions constitute workplace sexual harassment.
In the early 1990’s, Henstridge, Ratner and some friends were hanging out in Ratner’s NY apartment. She fell asleep on the couch, and when she woke up everyone else had left. She tried to leave but Ratner physically forced her to perform oral sex on him.
In 2004 Ratner masturbated in front of her; in the years since he has frequently taunted her with malicious lies about their non-existent former relationship, as well as deragatory boasts about having masturbated on magazines with her picture on the cover.
Jaime Ray Newman
When the actress met Ratner on a first class Air Canada flight in 2005, he began loudly telling her about how he wanted to give her oral sex – within minutes of having met her.
She met Ratner at a party, at which he chased he around all night – including into the bathroom! After the party, Ratner’s assistant called her for 6 months, trying to arrange a date.
As a 21-year-old extra on Rush Hour 2, Ratner ran his finger down her bare midriff (her costume for the film was skimpy). As he did so, he asked her if she wanted to go into the bathroom with him. When she said no, he responded, “Why? Don’t you want to be famous?”