Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.) on Tuesday called on fellow Democratic Rep. John Conyers (Mich.) to resign following accusations of sexual harassment levied against him.
While many Democrats have said that Conyers should face a congressional ethics investigation, few have publicly demanded that he resign from Congress. But Jayapal released a statement calling on him to do just that amid accusations of sexual harassment. Multiple women who have worked on Conyers' staff have come forward since last week to say that they endured or knew about Conyers' alleged inappropriate behavior, ranging from unwanted touching to threatening to punish staffers for rejecting his advances.
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"It is not easy for me to reach this conclusion because, as a civil rights activist, I have looked up to Representative Conyers for decades," Jayapal said. "I believe these women, I see the pattern and there is only one conclusion—Rep. Conyers must resign."
It is not easy for me to reach this conclusion because, as a civil rights activist, I have looked up to Representative Conyers for decades. I believe these women, I see the pattern and there is only one conclusion – Rep. Conyers must resign. pic.twitter.com/5RJUmEuRNf
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) November 28, 2017
She added that Democrats "cannot pick and choose" by condemning President Donald Trump and Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, both of whom have been accused of sexual misconduct, but not Conyers.
"This is a watershed moment where, finally, the country seems to be waking up and realizing we need to have a zero tolerance policy toward sexual harassment. We cannot pick and choose," Jayapal said. "Democrats cannot lambast Trump and Moore, and then turn a blind eye to our own who face credible charges against them."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) had defended Conyers in the wake of the allegations, calling him an "icon" whose accusers she does not know. On Tuesday, however, Pelosi backtracked on that defense after speaking with one of the accusers, Melanie Sloan, although she still considers an investigation to be the proper way forward.
Jayapal granted that it is difficult to acknowledge the misdeeds of a "champion for civil rights," but she said Democrats must do so in regards to Conyers.
"No one ever wants to believe that someone they respect and have regarded as a champion for civil rights issues would abuse their power to harm and harass women," Jayapal said.
Conyers has denied the allegations levied against him, saying that settlements he has reached with women do not prove any guilt.
"I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics," Conyers wrote in a letter to Pelosi on Sunday.
Jayapal, however, said in her statement that people should start believing women rather than men's denials.
"Sexual harassment is extremely difficult to prove in any court of law. That means that efforts to stop harassment must recognize that there will be gray areas," she said. "Women will come forward and men will deny. The question is: What is society's response? To truly change norms and cultures, we need to start believing women from the get-go."
Conyers has stepped down from his role as ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee amid the accusations.
Jayapal is not the only Democratic lawmaker who has called on Conyers to resign. A group of Democrats, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, privately urged Conyers to resign after a third former staffer accused him of sexual harassment, according to Politico.