Role: Judge twice removed from the Bench by the Alabama Supreme Court, for violating the Constitution of the United States. Ran unsuccessfully for Senate in Alabama in the 2017 special election to fill Jeff Sessions’ vacated seat when he was appointed Attorney General.
Accusations: 9 women accuse Moore of inappropriate sexual behavior, including coming onto them when they were teenagers and he was a man in his late 20’s and early 30’s.
Accusations: Franken has been accused of “butt-groping” and other unwanted touching by a total of 8 female constituents and colleagues.
Consequences for his actions: Franken’s Democratic colleagues called for his resignation on Dec 6, 2017, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and including Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Franken announced his resignation on Dec 7, to take effect before the end of the year.
Franken’s Response: Franken’s responses have been numerous. Immediately after the first allegation came out (leveled by Lee Ann Tweeden), he posted a response to Facebook that got a lot of blowback, so he posted a revised statement a few hours later. Franken then issued statements in response to each of the subsequent accusations that came out over the course of the next 2 weeks. And finally, on the day he announced his resignation from the Senate, he made a speech on the Senate floor that was effectively a summary statement regarding the allegations against him.
Franken was first accused on Nov 16, 2017 by radio show host Lee Ann Tweeden of “groping and forcibly kissing” her while they were on a USO tour together in the Middle East in 2004.
A second accuser came forward a couple days later, saying Franken had “groped her butt” in a photo opp at a Minnesota State Fair when he was first running for Senate.
This was followed by a number of other accusers, both named and anonymous, who alleged Senator Franken had committed similar acts of inappropriate touching in the years prior to being elected to the Senate. All in all, his total accusers came to 9.
Franken issued a statement in response to each new allegation that all basically took the position that he was sorry for ways that his behavior had made women uncomfortable, but that he largely remembered the events differently than they were being reported.
Calls for Franken to Resign
While he resisted calls for his resignation for weeks, he finally gave a speech on Dec 7, 2017 on the floor of the Senate, saying he would be resigning. This was in response to a chorus of his Democratic colleagues, led by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who all came out en masse on Dec 6, calling for his resignation.
Franken’s forced resignation added a huge log to the already raging fire of controversy over sexual harassment allegations of elected officials in this country.
Republican vs. Democratic responses to Sexual Harassment Allegations
As Franken noted in his resignation speech, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, a Republican, has been credibly accused of sexually harassing and assaulting as many as 20 women; and a man running for Senator of Alabama Roy Moore (who was later defeated in that race by Democrat Doug Jones) had been accused of assault and inappropriate conduct with 9 women, some of whom were young teenagers when the 30-year-old Moore came onto them.
Both of these men vehemently denied all accusations against them, and their party and most fellow Republicans were standing staunchly by their side.
Other lawmakers were grappling with accusations of misconduct at the same time:
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa) had resigned in October, after it became known that the staunch anti-abortion conservative, also a married father of one, had been pressuring his girlfriend to have an abortion.
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich) announced on Dec 5 that he would be resigning, more than a week after a female colleague accused him of years of sexually harassing her
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz) announced on Dec 7 that he would be resigning, several days after 2 staffers had accused him of repeatedly asking them to serve as surrogates for his wife
Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev) announced on Dec 15 he would not seek re-election, after accusations of sexual misconduct with female colleagues had been published on Dec 1
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tx) was caught up in a sex scandal that broke on Nov 22, causing him to announce on Nov 30 that he would not seek re-election in 2018.
Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tx) had settled a sexual harassment claim from a staffer back in 2014, but on Dec 1 it was revealed that he had used taxpayer money to pay her off
Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa) is the only lawmaker whose sexual harassment troubles came to light after Franken had announced his resignation, in January 2018.
Yet here was Senator Al Franken – a staunch progressive ally of women, and a powerful force to be reckoned with in the Senate – being forced to resign his seat, just because he had touched a few butts more than a decade ago?
How did this happen?
It’s been suggested that Democrats in the Senate were gearing up to make the case that Roy Moore was unfit to be a Senator; and that if he won the Alabama Senate race (as he was favored to do) they planned to try and unseat him, as a way of shrinking the Republican majority in that body.
In preparation for that move, Democratic lawmakers were eager to present themselves as holding the moral high ground on this issue. 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 Franken (along with Rep. John Conyers, the other Democratic lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct) 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.
It should be noted that Al Franken was widely rumored to be considering a Presidential bid in 2020. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the Senator who led the call for Franken to resign, is also said to be considering a Presidential bid. This has led many to speculate that Gillibrand’s call for Franken’s resignation was heavily tainted by self-interest.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), in her speech calling for Franken’s resignation, said, “when we have to start talking about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation.”
Especially when it comes to appropriate consequences, that is the most important conversation to be having.
There is a difference between putting your hand on a woman’s butt in a photograph and asking a female subordinate to stroke your penis.
There is a difference between doing sexually inappropriate things a decade ago, before you were elected to office, and doing them a month ago while sitting in your Congressional office in D.C.
There is a difference between insisting that all your accusers are liars and shame-facedly taking responsibility for your bad behavior, while apologizing to them over and over again.
There is a difference between being a staunch progressive ally for women’s rights and being a misogynistic 1950’s throwback who wants to treat women as second class citizens with less earning power than men.
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Lee Ann Tweeden
For more detailed information about Lee Ann Tweeden’s accusations and their credibility, click here.
Franken’s first accuser was radio host and former model, Lee Ann Tweeden. She published her story, “Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, And There’s Nothing Funny About It,” in this KABC blog post, on November 16, 2017.
Accusation: Tweeden’s accusation against Franken is that during rehearsal for their first show in Kuwait at the very start of their 2-week USO trip together in 2006, Franken forced an unwelcome kiss on her. Tweeden also published a photograph of Franken’s hands hovering over her breasts, while she appeared to be asleep.
Many have questioned the veracity of Tweeden’s allegations, as well as her motivations for lying about a strong Democratic Senator. Those stem from the fact that Republican operative and Trump ally Rodger Stone tweeted that Franken was about to be accused of “grabby” behavior, hours before Tweeden published her accusations.
It should be noted that a whole slew of people attacked Lee Ann Tweeden’s credibility on the grounds that she used to make a living wearing next to no clothing. But that is a completely inappropriate attack on her. ALL women – no matter how much clothing they might or might not wear, or the sexual behavior they might willingly engage in from time to time – have the right to say NO to any sexual behavior that is not welcome.
The country had spent the weekend whipping itself into a froth over Tweeden’s allegations against Franken, with many people on the left concluding that Franken was innocent and that Tweeden was a liar (using the argumetns I outlined above), while many on the right insisted that liberals were just defending one of their own in a grotesque display of hypocrisy.
Then on Monday we got the bombshell: a second Franken accuser!!
Then on Nov 22, 2017, just 2 days after the Menz accusation, the Huffington Post published an article by Jenavieve Hatch and Zachary Roth, reporting that 2 more women had accused Franken of inappropriate sexual behavior – but these 2 were anonymous.
Anonymous Accuser #1
Accusation: During a photo opp on June 25, 2007, at an event in Minneapolis hosted by the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus, Franken grabbed her butt.
Response: “I’m someone who, you know, hugs people,” Franken told Minnesota Public Radio. “I’ve learned from these stories that in some of these encounters I have crossed the line for some women.”
Anonymous Accuser #2
Accusation: Franken cupped her butt during a Democratic fundraiser in Minneapolis in 2008, and then suggested they visit a bathroom together.
Response: “I can categorically say that I did not proposition anyone to join me in any bathroom,” Franken told Huffington Post.
Franken responded to these 3rd and 4th allegations on November 26 by giving a series of interviews (see the Response tab, above) in which he repeated his apologies, but affirmed his desire for an ethics investigation, implying he felt that he would be found more or less innocent after such an investigation. He also stated unwaveringly that he intended to hold onto his Senate seat.
Ten days had passed and the dust seemed to be settling when news broke of two more accusers, one named and one anonymous. Their accusations were similar to the previous ones – an unwelcome kiss and a photo opp in which the Senator got handsy.
Accusation: During a photo opp in Kuwait in 2003, Franken groped her breast from the side.
Role: Military Police Officer serving in Kuwait when Franken came to visit with the USO in 2003
Then a week later two more accusations became public. And even though these were the least credible or serious of the bunch (one accusation was that he squeezed a woman’s waist, and another was that he tried to kiss her insisting it was his right as an entertainer) they were clearly the straws that broke the camel’s back. That same day is when Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called for Franken to step down, followed in rapid succession by a majority of Senate Democrats (see more on the Consequences tab, above)
Relationship: a budding journalist working for Media Matters, whose inauguration party (Obama’s 1st) Franken attended
I believe lot of people didn’t even bother to learn the details about this accusation. It was just another accusation, and that’s all people really cared about. Including even those who had been supporting him up until that point.
Which is unfortunate, because the accusation is that he squeezed her waist?!?! In what world is that sexual harassment? She leveled it for one reason and one reason only: so that she would get more people to read the story she wanted to tell about this moment in sexual harassment history.
She all but admits it in the final paragraph, when she says that a cryptic tweet she sent – one in which she did NOT accuse a Senator of groping her – only got one retweet. And this “story” of hers presented her with a chance to get thousands more eyeballs than anything else she’s ever written.
Because she’s not just a fan, or someone looking for a financial settlement. Rather, she’s just a journalist who’s tired of writing interesting pieces that no one ever reads, and she saw her moment in the spotlight.
Further evidence for this is that her “story” is only tangentially about her own experience with Franken. Mostly it’s her journalistic perspective on everything that got us to this #metoo moment. It’s a decent piece, I don’t blame her for wanting more people to read it. But throwing a good Senator under the bus in pursuit of her own 15 minutes of fame? No bueno.
Anonymous Accuser #4
Accusation: Franken tried to kiss her at the end of the taping of his radio show one day. She claims he said, “It’s my right as an entertainer.”
Role: former Democratic congressional aide
Response: “This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation,” he told Politico.
On Dec. 6, 2017 a wave of Democratic elected officials, led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called for Franken to resign. Here is the full list, with their individual calls for his resignation, as published by Politico.
“I think when we have to start talking about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation. You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is okay.”
Franken gave an 11-minute speech on the floor of the Senate on Thursday morning, December 7, 2017 in which he announced he would be resigning within the month.
Read the full transcript, with annotations, on the Washington Post, by Amber Phillips. Or watch the video below.
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Franken’s initial response to Tweeden’s allegations was brief, possibly written by a staffer: “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
Al Franken’s 2nd official statement in response to the Lee Ann Tweeden accusations, after his first apology earlier in the day had been very poorly received.
After 3 more accusers came forward, Franken sort of went into hiding, and wasn’t seen publicly for a couple weeks. Then on November 26 he decided to tell the world he wasn’t resigning in a couple of interviews in Minnesota – one with WCCO’s Esme Murphy and another with MPR’s Cathy Wurzer.
Two more accusers came forward on November 26, that Franken didn’t really respond to.
When news broke on Dec 6 that there were two more accusers, that’s when Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called for him to step down, followed quickly that same day by a majority of Democratic Senators. That led to Franken’s resignation speech on Dec. 7.
See both Gillibrand’s and Franken’s speeches on the Consequences tab, above.
“Many of us spent years working for Senator Franken in Minnesota and Washington. In our time working for the Senator, he treated us with the utmost respect. He valued our work and our opinions and was a champion for women both in the legislation he supported and in promoting women to leadership roles in our offices.”
Signing the statement were Katherine Blauvelt, Lianne Endo, Alexandra Fetissoff, Rachel Friedlander-Holm, Jessi Held, Anna Henderson, Lisbeth Kaufman, Natalie Volin Lehr, Jamie Drogin Lehman, Rachel Pike Norton, Karen Saxe, Charlotte Slaiman, Bethany Snyder, Ashley White.
136 female community leaders including current and former elected officials, non-profit board members, community leaders, and members of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party released the following statement in support of Franken on November 26, after his interviews announcing he’d be fighting to regain Minnesotan’s trust and to stay in his Senate seat:
“We are longtime supporters of Senator Franken, and our support is rooted in the core values that we share. During his time in the Senate he has been a champion for these values and a steadfast supporter of women’s rights. While we are disappointed by these allegations, we appreciate that he has apologized and is committed to regaining the trust of Minnesotans. We believe a Senate investigation into these allegations is the appropriate course of action and will continue to support the Senator throughout this process.”
As published by PoliticsUSA.com on Dec 3, 2017 – including the names of all the women.
After Franken resigned, Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the senior senator from Franken’s home state of Minnesota, released this statement.
Role: U.S. Congressman (R-Tx), leads the House Oversight subcommittee on the interior, energy and environment
Accusations: A former employee has accused Farenthold of sexually harassing her, and then retaliating against her when she filed a complaint about his behavior. He settled her claim for $84,000, a sum that was paid out of taxpayer funds. It was one of 6 settlements of various kinds paid out by the Congressman since 2013.
“Representative Blake Farenthold, Republican of Texas, used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment claim, one of six settlements for workplace issues ranging from veteran status discrimination to age bias that were paid out by a secretive congressional office since 2013. The six settlements for malfeasance in House offices totaled $359,450.”
Lauren Greene, Farenthold’s former communications director
In 2014, the congressman’s former communications director, Lauren Greene, accused him of regularly making comments to gauge her interest in a sexual relationship, including saying he was having “sexual fantasies” about her. Ms. Greene accused Mr. Farenthold and his chief of staff, Bob Haueter, of retaliating after she complained about a hostile work environment.
Accusations: Four female colleagues have accused Kihuen of relentlessly persistent verbal sexual harassment, as well as inappropriate touching and requests for sex.
Consequences for his actions: Will not seek reelection in 2018, after being pressured to resign by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) and others.
Kihuen’s Response: Kihuen denies that he did anything wrong. He even went so far, in an interview with ABC News on Dec 5, to accuse the DCCC and Nancy Pelosi of having already investigated the claims of his first accuser and found them baseless – claims that are untrue. See the video with ABC in the tabs below.
Rubin Kihuen is a man who simply doesn’t get it that relentlessly pursuing subordinates who have repeatedly told you they aren’t interested isn’t fun and flirty – it’s sexual harassment.
We know Kihuen is clueless, not only because he has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing (so unless he’s an outright liar, which is always a possibility, he thinks his behavior was okay), but because one of the hundreds of unwelcome texts he sent to a lobbyist said,
“I apologize…Can’t talk to you like this anymore, I’m officially a congressional candidate again,” shortly after announcing his Congressional bid.
Clearly, he was laboring under the mistaken belief that this woman was enjoying the attention from him – when in reality she felt uncomfortable, annoyed … harassed.
A total of four women have now reported this kind of relentless and unwelcome pursuit by Kihuen, and their stories are detailed on the “Accusers” tab.
After the allegations from his first accuser, Samantha, came to light thanks to Buzz Feed, not only did the Congressman not agree to step down, he chose an interesting counter-offensive: spreading the blame around.
In an interview with ABC News, Kihuen suggested that not only did the DCCC and Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) know about Samantha’s allegations previously, they looked into them and found them to be baseless – and then supported his campaign with millions of dollars.
Turns out, that’s completely false.
As ABC News reports, the DCCC didn’t look into Samantha’s claims at the time, because they weren’t given the detailed account that has been brought to light by Buzz Feed.
An ethics committee investigation was opened on Dec. 10, 2017, as reported by The Nevada Independent by Riley Snyder on Dec 15, 2017.
Kihuen announced on Dec 15, 2017 that he would not seek reelection.
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A 25-year-old woman named Samantha, whose last name has been withheld for her privacy, was Kihuen’s finance director during his campaign from December 2015 – April 2016. During that time Kihuen frequently asked her out on dates and propositioned her with unwelcome and repeated statements like,
“‘You look really good, I’d like to take you out if you didn’t work for me” “We should get a hotel room here.” and asking her if she ever cheated on her boyfriend.
She firmly told him no several times, but the harassment continued. He even laughed at her when she turned him down, leaving her feeling humiliated.
She quit his campaign in frustration in April, 2015. She didn’t want to deal with his advances any longer, but also didn’t feel she had any recourse.
She told a staffer at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at the time that the reason she was leaving so abruptly is that Kihuen made her “uncomfortable.” That DCCC staffer told a colleague at the DCCC, who in turn told Kihuen’s campaign manager, Dave Chase.
Chase confronted Kihuen, who told him nothing improper had occurred. After the Buzz Feed story was published, Chase said, “I believe Samantha and wish I had known her specific allegations when I confronted Ruben after she left the campaign or in time to stop what took place.”
Her story was brought to light by Buzz Feed on Dec 1 2017:
Another woman, a lobbyist, came forward to say that Kihuen relentlessly harassed her over a period of years – sending her hundreds of unwelcome text & Facebook messages, touching her thighs and her butt, playing with her hands or feet during meetings, and even twice asking for her address (she gave him fake ones both times) – all this, despite having told him no, firmly and repeatedly, on several occasions.
“What color are your panties?” “[kissy emoji] How was your weekend?” “You should come sit on my lap. I have more cushion than those seats.” “Not sure why you’re so scared of me” “You didn’t come lobby me today [sad-face emoji].” “I need a trophy date! Haha.” – after inviting her out to a Carson City bar “You’re absolutely beautiful and unbelievably sexy” “Love your dress” “You looked so beautiful tonight…irresistible” “So beautiful” “You look fabulous in black” “But I’m sure you look even better naked.”
As far as how she reacted (or why she didn’t react more strongly), the Nevada Independnt reports these comments from the woman:
“I was uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to think and I didn’t know how to react” “You don’t want to bring attention to it, right? You’re trying to slightly, like, just kind of turn your body and shift your weight away from it.” “Okay, this is kind of what my life is like now, I guess.” “You don’t really know what to say when a [state] senator tells you, like, ‘Nice ass. You’re just like, ‘Thank you, bye, hi-de-ho.’”
“I was uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to think and I didn’t know how to react”
A 24-year-old D.C. businesswoman accuses Kihuen of having made unwelcome sexual advances toward her in the fall of 2017 while the Congressman’s campaign was a client of her firm.
The Nevada Independent reports, “The woman described conduct [to us] that she said made her feel flustered and uncomfortable, including Kihuen asking at the office why she didn’t have a boyfriend, asking if she lived alone and offering to help her move up in her career — something she interpreted as a possible suggestion for sexual favors. At one fundraiser, she said, he rubbed her lower back and kissed her face several times.”
She said some of her friends have asked why she didn’t reject him, outright.
“I’m not in a place to yell at a member of Congress and say ‘stop touching me’ because I just started my career,” she said. “He’s a member of Congress and a client of my firm … there’s just such a power dynamic that makes it so you can’t, really.”
He’s a member of Congress and a client of my firm … so you can’t, really.
A woman who worked at the front desk of Kihuen’s condo building, who was 19 or 20 at the time (2014 and 2015), said she was initially flirtatious with Kihuen and gave him her number. But then the texts started coming late at night, and were increasingly inappropriate. He also would routinely comment on her clothes, and her butt.
The woman asked him to stop texting her 2 or 3 times, and when he wouldn’t comply she just blocked his number. She also made it a habit to try and hide from him whenever she saw him at work, which was the condo building in which he lived.
Reported in BuzzFeed, by Tarini Parti and Kate Nocera, Dec. 15, 2017
As part of their investigation, Buzz Feed spoke to more than 30 men and women who had known Kihuen for years in Nevada politcs. They all reported that his penchant for being a playboy – relentlessly pursuing lots of women – was an “open secret.”
While some excused that kind of behavior in a young, single guy, many observed that Kihuen was now a U.S. Congressman in his mid-30’s who needed to grow up and start acting more responsibly.
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Kihuen announced on Dec 15, 2017 that he would not seek reelection in 2018.
“In Congress, no one should face sexual harassment in order to work in an office or in a campaign. The young woman’s documented account is convincing, and I commend her for the courage it took to come forward,” Pelosi said in a statement after talking with Kihuen. “In light of these upsetting allegations, Congressman Kihuen should resign.”
Not only did Kihuen deny the allegations, he tried an interesting counter-offensive: spreading the blame around.
In a Dec 5 interview with ABC News, he suggested that he couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong because the DCCC and Nancy Pelosi had looked into it already. And besides, if he was guilty, so were they – because they gave his campaign millions of dollars even after finding out about the allegations.
All of that, according to reports, is complete hooey.
As reported by ABC News, “Congressman Kihuen’s statement is not true,” Meredith Kelly, DCCC communications director, said. “We were presented with these disturbing facts for the first time last week, and the chair immediately called for his resignation.”
A Kihuen spokesman did not respond to a request for documentation supporting Kihuen’s claims about the DCCC, Pelosi and Lujan. – ABC News, Dec 5, 2017
Role: U.S. Congressman (R-Tx), served as vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee
Accusations: Kelly Canon said Barton sent her unwanted, sexually inappropriate text messages. The text messages were published by the Star Telegram, Nov 17, 2017, by Anna M. Tinsley
Consequences for his actions: Will not seek reelection.
Barton’s Response: “There are enough people who lost faith in me that it’s time to step aside and let there be a new voice for the 6th district in Washington, so I am not going to run for re-election.”
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.