Fox News: Ethics panel probes Conyers allegations, as Dem leaders call claims 'disturbing'

Originally posted at Fox News by Brooke Singman.

The House Ethics Committee announced Tuesday it has launched an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Democratic Rep. John Conyers, after he admitted to settling a complaint with an ex-staffer who reportedly said she was fired for rebuffing his advances.

“The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative John Conyers, Jr. may have engaged in sexual harassment of members of his staff, discriminated against certain staff on the basis of age, and used official resources for impermissible personal purposes,” Ethics Committee Chairwoman Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., and Ranking Member Rep. Theodore Deutch, D-Fla., said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “The Committee … has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding these allegations.”

They added: “The Committee notes that the mere fact that it is investigating these allegations, and publicly disclosing its review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgement on behalf of the Committee.”

The investigation comes after BuzzFeed News first reported Monday on the allegations, which fellow Democrats called “disturbing.”

Documents obtained by BuzzFeed reportedly show several former staff members accusing Conyers of requesting sexual favors, rubbing their hands sexually and rubbing their legs and backs.

The woman who complained about her firing reportedly claimed she was dismissed because she did not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.” She reportedly believed she had no other option than to remain quiet and take the settlement in 2015.

Conyers, D-Mich., initially had told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he hadn’t settled any such harassment complaints.

But Conyers’ office issued a detailed clarification Tuesday afternoon, acknowledging the complaint was real, though the lawmaker disputed the underlying claims.

Conyers said Tuesday that he has been a “fierce advocate for equality in the workplace” and supports the rights of his employees, but noted that it was “important to recognize that the mere making of an allegation does not mean it is true.”

“In this case, I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me and continue to do so,” Conyers said, adding that his office resolved the allegations. “That should not be lost in the narrative. The resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment.”

Before the Ethics Committee announced its probe Tuesday afternoon, Conyers said that he would “fully cooperate with an investigation,” once the House determined the “extent” it would look at the “issues.”

By Tuesday afternoon, several Democratic leaders already were voicing concern about the claims and calling for an ethics investigation.

“This report is very disturbing,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement Tuesday. “The House ought to observe a zero tolerance policy when it comes to harassment and discrimination, and I believe an ethics investigation is an appropriate next step.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also weighed in, saying that Congress must “ensure a climate of dignity and respect, with zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying or abuse.”

“As I have said before,” Pelosi said, “any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee.”

And the Congressional Black Caucus, of which Conyers is a member, said they were aware of the “very serious and disturbing allegations” and his initial “statement emphatically denying these allegations.”

“We encourage and expect Mr. Conyers to cooperate fully with any and all investigations into this matter,” CBC Chairman Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-La., said in a statement.

Read more at Fox News.

 

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