House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) on Tuesday called for an investigation into sexual harassment claims made against Democratic Rep. John Conyers (Mich.).
Conyers is the longest-serving active member of Congress, and Pelosi and other Democrats have called for a formal ethics investigation to be opened into whether he sexually harassed female staffers, the Washington Post reports. A BuzzFeed report Monday included accusations of sexual advances and inappropriate touching, as well as using congressional resources to help him carry on extramarital affairs.
"As Members of Congress, we each have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the House of Representatives and to ensure a climate of dignity and respect, with zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying or abuse," Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday. "As I have said before, any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee."
Conyers has denied the charges, including that he reached a settlement with an aide who claims to have been fired for rebuffing his advances. BuzzFeed reported that Conyers, 88, paid a woman over $27,000 in 2015 to reach a settlement that required her to sign a confidentiality agreement.
"I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so," Conyers said Tuesday.
"My office resolved the allegations—with an express denial of liability—to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation. That should not be lost in the narrative," he said.
Pelosi also called for passing the Me Too Congress Act sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier (D., Calif.), which would reform the system for how Congress handles cases such as this one. Speier also called for an ethics investigation.
"Beyond the sexual harassment allegations are allegations that call into question the amount of money that is used to settle sexual harassment cases, and whether some Members are using their tax payer-funded office budgets to make settlements under the guise of severance payments," Speier said in a statement.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) also said an investigation would be appropriate in Conyers’ case.
"The allegations against Ranking Member Conyers are extremely serious and deeply troubling," Nadler said in a statement.
"Obviously, these allegations must be investigated promptly by the Ethics Committee. There can be no tolerance for behavior that subjects women to the kind of conduct alleged," Nadler stated.
This echoes Democrats’ calls for Sen. Al Franken (D., Mich.) to also face an investigation after radio broadcaster Leeann Tweeden released a photo of him groping her during the pair’s USO trip to the Middle East in 2006. Franken has admitted that the photo was inappropriate but has denied other allegations of inappropriate behavior and asked for an investigation.
Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (Wis.) also issued a statement about Conyers, calling the allegations "extremely troubling."
"Additional reforms to the system are under consideration as the committee continues its review," Ryan said Tuesday. "People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination."