United States

John Conyers: Top US Democrat gives up post amid harassment probe

The longest-serving congressman in the US, John Conyers, has left his leadership role due to a sexual harassment inquiry. Conyers "vehemently denies" the claims against him.

John Conyers

The longest-serving member of the US Congress, Representative John Conyers, announced that he was stepping down from his leadership position while his fellow lawmakers investigate claims of sexual harassment made against him.

Conyers, a longtime civil rights crusader, will no longer be the senior Democrat in the influential House Judiciary Committee.

"I cannot in good conscience allow these charges to undermine my colleagues," Conyers said.

Although he "vehemently denies" the multiple allegations against him, Conyers said he was stepping aside to allow the House Ethics Committee to do its job.

Senior House Democrat Nancy Pelosi has called for a "zero-tolerance" policy on sexual harassment.

"We are at a watershed moment on this issue, and no matter how great an individual's legacy, it is not a license for harassment," Pelosi said in a statement.

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The 88-year-old Conyers has been in Congress since 1965, and one of his most significant achievements was sponsoring the legislation that made Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday.

Over the weekend, twelve former employees of Conyers told the press that their ex-boss "was a gentleman and never behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner in our

presence."

But this is not the first time Conyers has had to fend off harassment claims. In 2015, he paid a $27,000 (€22,600) settlement to a former employee who said she was fired after she refused his advances.

Conyers said he paid the ex-staffer in order to "save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation."

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At the same time, US President Donald Trump came out in support of another politician accused of harassment – Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

The president tweeted that Moore's rival, former prosecutor and Democrat Doug Jones was "weak" on issues like crime and immigration.

A far-right conservative with ties to white nationalist extremist groups, Moore has been repeatedly accused of harassing and molesting underage girls while he was in his 30s. The mounting evidence against him — including his signature in one accuser's high-school yearbook — has prompted 20 prominent Republicans to call on Moore to step down ahead of the December 12 vote.

es/rt (AFP, Reuters)

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