Pelosi Punts: Won’t Say if Conyers Should Step Down

The House minority leader refused to say whether the women accusing the 88-year-old congressman should be believed

During a Sunday morning interview on the NBC News program “Meet the Press,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) refused to say if she believes Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) should step down in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations leveled against him.

BuzzFeed reported last week that Conyers, the longest-serving current member of the House and one of Congress’ most prominent African-American legislators, had been accused of sexually harassing female staffers over the years. In addition, Conyers, 88, admitted to paying a former employee more than $27,000 out of his taxpayer-funded office fund in 2015 to settle a complaint alleging she was fired after refusing to “succumb to [Conyer’s] sexual advances.”

Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, has denied the harassment allegations.

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The Democratic Party was struggling to address the allegations against Conyers — as well as the groping allegations leveled against Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) — when Pelosi spoke with “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd. When Pelosi was asked whether Conyers should be “in or out” following the allegations, she deflected, saying the congressman deserves “due process.”

“We are strengthened by due process. Just because someone is accused — and was it one accusation? Was it two? I think there has to be,” Pelosi replied. “John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women — the Violence Against Women Act, which the left — right-wing — is now quoting me as praising him for his work on that, and he did great work on that.”

“But the fact is, as John reviews his case, which he knows, which I don’t, I believe he will do the right thing,” Pelosi added.

But Todd pressed further, asking the House minority leader, “And is the right thing what? Resign?”

Pelosi replied, “That he will do the right thing in terms of what he knows about his situation, that he’s entitled to due process. But women are entitled to due process as well.”

Related: John Conyers Settled Sex Harassment Complaint with $27K in Taxpayer Dollars

Todd noted that Conyers “took advantage” of the due process system in Congress because he “got to hide his settlement” from the public.

When Todd asked Pelosi point-blank, “Do you believe John Conyers’ accusers?” Pelosi replied, “I don’t know who they are. Do you? They have not really come forward.”

Todd asked, “You don’t know if you believe the accusations?”

“That’s for the ethics committee to review,” Pelosi replied.

The “Meet the Press” host called Pelosi’s attention to her previous statements that there should be “zero tolerance” when it comes to powerful men taking advantage of women when he asked her to define what a “fireable offense” would be in Conyers’ situation. Todd also asked Pelosi whether she would call for Conyers’ resignation from the Judiciary Committee or if she would suspend the Michigan Democrat from other committees.

“I’m not sharing that with you right now,” the House minority leader replied.

Following Pelosi’s “Meet the Press” interview, Conyers released a statement announcing he would be stepping down from the House Judiciary Committee. In response to that announcement, Pelosi took the opportunity in her own statement to applaud the congressman’s decision — even though she never called for him to step down.

“Zero tolerance means consequences,” Pelosi wrote. “We must ensure the Congress has a climate of dignity and respect with zero tolerance for sexual harassment.”

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PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].