DETROIT (AP) — U.S. Rep. John Conyers will fight allegations of sexual misconduct involving several former female staff, his lawyer said in an interview, even though some fellow Democrats are pushing him to resign.
Detroit-area attorney Arnold Reed told The Associated Press that the 88-year-old Conyers is innocent and has no plans to resign. 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.”
Last week, BuzzFeed News reported that Conyers had settled a complaint in 2015 from a woman on his staff who alleged she was fired because she rejected his sexual advances.
BuzzFeed reported that Conyers’ office paid the woman more than $27,000 in the confidential settlement. BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they had witnessed Conyers touching female staffers inappropriately or requesting sexual favors.
A former scheduler filed a complaint earlier this year, but later dropped it. The Associated Press 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 on 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.
Reed said he met with Conyers, who was at his Detroit home Wednesday and mostly remained indoors before being driven away in the afternoon as reporters gathered outside the gated driveway.
His wife Monica told reporters that her husband is entitled to have the judicial process play out “before we start being his judge and jury … and tarnish all of these years of his legacy for nothing.”
Conyers was first elected to the U.S. House in 1964 and is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“It’s very unfortunate to see him fight so long for so many people and to automatically have the allegations assumed to be true,” said his son, John Conyers III.
He noted, however: “And of course, with sexual assault, women are to be believed. But in this instance he has no history of this.”
Three Democratic House members have publicly suggested Conyers should resign: Kathleen Rice, Earl Blumenhauer and Pramila Jayapal.
Conyers is among a number of 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.
The most outspoken of the women claiming harassment by Conyers is Maher, who ran a Michigan office for Conyers from 1997 to 2005.
Maher described one incident in 1997 during a Congressional Black Caucus event in Washington.
Maher said that while she was in the bedroom of a hotel suite, Conyers walked in, ordered sandwiches and undressed.
“I had my nightclothes on,” said Maher, who now lives in the Holland area in western Michigan. “I was just scared to death. I was married at the time. He sat in the bedroom taking his clothes off. I didn’t say anything and he didn’t say anything.”
Nothing happened between them, she added.
“He didn’t go naked. He was down to his skivvies,” Maher said. “He sat there eating sandwiches and then he stormed out and slammed the door. I was so embarrassed and ashamed of myself for being so stupid. I needed a job.”
She added: “He didn’t put his hand on me, but the message was loud and clear.”