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.

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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Harvey Weinstein has been accused by dozens of women of sexual harassment or sexual assaults, including rape. Under investigation by police departments in New York, London, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, Weinstein denies all allegations of non-consensual sex, but apologized for causing "a lot of pain." The case prompted many other women to come forward.

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Media men in glass houses

PBS and CBS host Charlie Rose is accused by several women of unwanted sexual advances, walking naked in front of them or making lewd phone calls. He has apologized for his behavior but questioned the accuracy of some of the allegations. Meanwhile, Journalist Mark Halperin is accused of harassing about 12 women while at ABC News.

High-profile sexual misconduct cases in the US

Politicians from the Republican party...

US Senate candidate Roy Moore, a Republican from Alabama, is accused of sexually assaulting two teenagers and pursuing relationships with several others decades ago, when he was in his 30s. He has denied the allegations. Former President George H.W. Bush was accused of patting seven women below the waist. The 93-year-old has issued apologies through a spokesman "to anyone he has offended."

High-profile sexual misconduct cases in the US

...and the Democrats

A senior figure in the US Democratic party, Minnesota Senator Al Franken is accused of forcibly kissing radio personality Leeann Tweeden and groping her while she slept during a 2006 tour to Afghanistan to entertain US troops. The former comedian who became a senator in 2009 has apologized, saying he felt "disgusted" with himself.

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Sexual misconduct in sports

Ex-USA gymnastics team doctor Lawrence "Larry" Nassar is accused of abusing over 100 female athletes. He pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct and could face 25 years in prison. Three of his victims were under 13 years old. Israeli IOC member Alex Gilady is accused by two women of rape and by two others of inappropriate conduct. He denies the rape accusations.

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Hollywood stars under scrutiny

Actor Kevin Spacey has been accused by at least 24 men of sexual misconduct or assault. London police are investigating two sexual assaults and he was fired from "House of Cards." Dustin Hoffman is accused by a woman of harassing her when she was 17. He has apologized for his behavior. Writer-director James Toback is accused by hundreds of women of sexual harassment. He denies the allegations.

2015 harassment suit

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


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)