Pelosi Backtracks on Defense of Conyers: His Behavior Is 'Unacceptable and Disappointing'

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks about House matters during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, July 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. / Getty Images
Nancy Pelosi / Getty Images
November 27, 2017

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) on Monday evening backtracked from her previous defense of Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.), describing his behavior against Melanie Sloan in the 1990s as "unacceptable and disappointing."

Pelosi released a statement after meeting with Sloan, a prominent Washington, D.C. lawyer who previously worked with Conyers as the minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee from 1995 until 1998. Sloan alleged last week that Conyers harassed and verbally abused her when they worked together.

"This afternoon, I spoke with Melanie Sloan who worked for Congressman Conyers on the Judiciary Committee in the mid-1990s," Pelosi said. "Ms. Sloan told me that she had publicly discussed distressing experiences while on his staff. I find the behavior Ms. Sloan described unacceptable and disappointing. I believe what Ms. Sloan has told me."

"Ms. Sloan, as a respected ethics expert and attorney, also gave me valuable feedback into the substantive reforms many of us in Congress are advocating to foster a climate of respect and dignity, and to protect legislative branch employees," Pelosi added.

Pelosi went on to say she has not had the opportunity to speak to the other four women who have alleged Conyers sexually harassed them. She noted that one of the women could not speak publicly because of the "secretive settlement process in place."

"That ridiculous system must be ended and victims who want to come forward to the Ethics Committee must be able to do so," Pelosi concluded.

While Pelosi backtracked from her defense of Conyers a day earlier, CNN reporter MJ Lee noted on Twitter that Pelosi doesn't include anything in her statement about what the repercussions should be for Conyers.

She also noted that one of Pelosi's aides told her the minority leader still believes "the ethics investigation should continue" into Conyers.