Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D., Texas) refused to say Thursday whether her Democratic colleague Rep. John Conyers (Mich.) should resign, saying Congress should instead focus on how to "change the system."
MSNBC host Craig Melvin repeatedly asked the congresswoman about sexual harassment allegations against Conyers, but Jackson Lee steadfastly refused to say her colleague should step down, even though she said she believes the women who have made sexual harassment allegations. The Texas congresswoman said she is praying for Conyers and his family, along with the women accusing him, and said the decision to resign is one for Conyers.
"I believe the decision to go or come will be the decision of that member," she said. "As I understand it, Mr. Conyers is with his family. I'm praying for them. I'm praying for the women, and I'm praying for them to make their decision. But all those decisions are usually at the behest of the member and I expect that to be the case here."
When asked if she believes the women who have come forward, Jackson Lee said she does, but what is most important is to "change the system."
"I was on record in the judiciary committee that I believe women who have the courage to come forward, and I have not taken a backseat to that stand," she said. "But I think what is important is to, again, recognize that the rights of women will be enhanced and protected by us fighting to change these laws and to change the system."
Jackson Lee added that Conyers should make his decision for the "greater good" and said she expects him to act in line with his patriotism.
"I've only known him to be a patriot, and that's what I would expect," she said.
Melvin asked if she thought the Democratic Party was sacrificing its credibility on standing up for women by not pushing out Conyers. Jackson Lee denied that was the case.
"Craig, absolutely not, because the story is not near concluded," she said before shifting to say what is "appalling" are the allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore and President Donald Trump.
Melvin pressed Jackson Lee further on her position about the women who have come forward against Conyers, bringing up an African-American accuser who was on the "Today" show Thursday morning. The Texas Democrat said Melvin was "mishearing" her because she is not taking a "backseat" on matters of sexual harassment. She said Democrats would not be "wimps" on this issue.
Melvin then brought up the news of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) calling for Conyers to resign, and asked Jackson Lee if she wanted to be on the "other side" on the issue. She denied that was the case, prompting Melvin to once again press on her refusal to call for Conyers to resign.
Melvin described the two sides of the issue being, on one side, those calling for Conyers to resign and, on the other, those who are not. Jackson Lee again said the decision was up to the Michigan congressman.
The Michigan Democrat was hospitalized with a "stress-related illness" this week, which a spokesman said was a result of the "media assault" against him. Conyers' lawyer also struck back at Pelosi Thursday, saying she had to explain why she called for Conyers to resign, but not for accused offender Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) to resign.