Politics

Former Congressional Black Caucus Staffer Says Dems Discriminating Against Conyers

Angela Rye, now with CNN, asks why Sen. Al Franken hasn't been asked to give up his subcommittee chairmanship

Angela Rye, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, ripped the Democratic Party on Monday for a racial double standard in its treatment of sexual harassment allegations against a pair of lawmakers.

Speaking on CNN, where she now is a commentator, Rye said party leaders have gone softer on Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who is white, than on Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who is black. Conyers, a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the most senior member of the House of Representatives, has agreed to give up his position as ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

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“It’s unfortunate that, yet again, we see the hypocrisy in the Democratic Party,” Rye said. “There’s no call for Al Franken to resign. He’s also a ranking member on a subcommittee on judiciary that’s very, very important.”

Rye said Democratic leaders have not pressured Franken to step away as ranking member of Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.

“There have just been calls for an ethics investigation on his part,” she said. “And there is literal photo evidence of Al Franken doing the same thing.”

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Franken has been on an apology tour of sorts, expressing regret for taking a photo of himself lurking over a radio host — hands over her breasts — when they were on a USO tour together before he became a senator. Franken also has apologized to a woman who says he groped her while he was posing with her for a photo, although he insists he does not remember the incident.

But Franken has insisted he will not resign.

Four of the six ethics probes in the House when Angela Rye worked for the Congressional Black Caucus involved black representatives, she said.

Rye told CNN anchor Kate Bolduan that “political expediency” explains the different treatment of Conyers and Franken.

“This is the problem with the party. This is why people see us as the same as Republicans,” she said. “You have to treat these things fairly. And what I will tell you as the former CBC executive director, is that far too often, our members who are the most senior ranking, our members who have the most desired position in the House, get targeted in very strange ways.”

Rye said four of the six ethics probes in the House when she worked for the Congressional Black Caucus involved black representatives.

“Are you going to tell me that black members are more unethical than white members? I would tell you no,” she said.

Democratic leaders have struggled to come up with a coherent response to the sexual harassment wave that has engulfed their own members. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) refused on Sunday to say whether Conyers should resign and called him an “icon.”

Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen, who appeared with Rye on CNN, tried to interject. But Rye was just getting started and cut her off.

“I’m not finished,” she said. “I would ask this party to really take a hard look at what is really different here.”

Rye also suggested that Conyers might be innocent, despite reports that he paid to settle a sexual harassment complaint made by a former staffer. Rye said multiple senior staffers who have worked closely with Conyers never experienced anything like this.

“I’m not saying that this woman is wrong,” she said. “But what I am saying is that the Democratic Party needs to take a hard look in the mirror and treat these situations fairly.”

Rosen agreed Franken should step down from his position on the subcommittee.

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“What I said is that I don’t think that the offense is equal” to the allegation against Conyers, she said. “That’s all.”

Rye responded, “And I beg to differ with you, Hillary.”

Rosen said she was deferring to comments by the radio host, Leeann Tweeden, who has said Franken should not lose his seat.

“I do believe that victims’ voices are the ones that should lead us here,” she said.

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