US Rep. Conyers in hospital as ex-aide describes harassment
DETROIT (AP) Michigan Rep. John Conyers was hospitalized in Detroit on Thursday as a former aide publicly accused him of sexual harassment, telling NBC’s “Today” show that she was fired for rejecting advances from the longest-serving member of the U.S. House.
Marion Brown, 61, said the Democratic congressman propositioned her for sex multiple times over more than a decade. She said she stayed on the job because she needed to support her family and found the work rewarding.
“It was sexual harassment … violating my body,” she said. “Propositioning me. Inviting me to hotels with the guise of discussing business and then propositioning me … for sex.”
Conyers, meanwhile, was in a Detroit hospital, political consultant and family friend Sam Riddle told The Associated Press. Riddle said the information came from Conyers’ wife, Monica. He said he didn’t know Conyers’ medical condition or why he went to the hospital.
“We just pray for the congressman’s recovery,” Riddle said.
Brown broke a confidentiality agreement to tell her story to “Today.” The Associated Press left messages seeking comment from Conyers’ lawyer, who has said the 88-year-old congressman will fight the misconduct allegations.
Last week, BuzzFeed News reported Conyers had settled a complaint in 2015 for $27,000 from a female staffer who alleged she was fired because she rejected his sexual advances. BuzzFeed didn’t disclose her name in its initial report and said the settlement was confidential.
Brown’s lawyer, Lisa Bloom, confirmed to The Associated Press after the NBC interview aired that Brown was that former employee. She said Brown worked for Conyers in a variety of capacities from 2003 until 2014, mostly in the Detroit district office.
Brown said she’s taking a risk by violating the confidentiality agreement, but she spoke out to say she’s “not a liar” and to request an apology from Conyers. She said she reported some allegations to Conyers’ chief of staff in Detroit, but nothing happened.
Some fellow Democrats are pushing Conyers to resign, but Detroit-area attorney Arnold Reed told the AP on Wednesday that Conyers is innocent and has no plans to step down. Anyone making inappropriate touching or other claims against the longest-serving member of the House should be prepared to back them up, he added.
“He’s going to fight these allegations tooth and nail if he has to with evidence, with documentation, witnesses, whatever he has to do,” Reed said. “And the accusers will have to prove up their case.”
BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they witnessed Conyers inappropriately touching female staffers or requesting sexual favors.
A former scheduler filed a complaint earlier this year, but later dropped it. The AP hasn’t released her name. And a third ex-staffer, Deanna Maher, said Tuesday that in 1997 Conyers undressed to his underwear in front of her and twice touched her leg inappropriately.
The House Ethics Committee is investigating Conyers, and Reed said he will cooperate with any investigation. Conyers announced Sunday that he would step aside as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has pressured Conyers behind the scenes to leave the chamber, according to a senior House aide, who spoke late Tuesday on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Also Tuesday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with Conyers and explained to one of their founding members why he should resign, but stressed the decision was up to him, the senior House aide said.
Three Democratic House members have publicly suggested Conyers should resign: Kathleen Rice, Earl Blumenhauer and Pramila Jayapal.
Conyers is among several prominent men in politics, entertainment and journalism who have been accused of sexual misconduct in the wake of explosive allegations against former Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein. On Wednesday, NBC’s “Today” host Matt Lauer and humorist and Garrison Keillor were fired for inappropriate conduct.