Democrat John Conyers, the Detroit congressman whom House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called an “icon” just nine days ago, has announced he’s stepping down after several women accused him of sexual harassment and worse.
Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress and a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told a Detroit radio station Tuesday morning that he is retiring immediately and is endorsing his son, John Conyers III, to take his place. John Conyers was first elected to Congress in 1964, the year that Barry Goldwater ran for president against incumbent President Lyndon Johnson, and has served continuously ever since.
Author and conservative activist Mike Cernovich broke the story of Conyers’ sexual harassment of a staffer, giving the story to BuzzFeed, which published it on November 20, along with the allegation that Conyers had settled the case through the congressional Office of Compliance with $27,000 in taxpayer funds.
The next day, the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into multiple instances of sexual harassment by Conyers.
A second accuser came forward a week later to say that Conyers had invited her to his hotel room in 1997, had propositioned her for sex, and touched her inappropriately. She was 57 at the time and said she stayed in the job because of her age, fearing she would not be able to find employment elsewhere.
A third accuser came forward publicly Tuesday morning to tell the Detroit News that Conyers had put his hand up her skirt in church.
Conyers had issued a statement after the first report saying he “vehemently” denied the allegations, and Pelosi said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on November 26 that Conyers is an “icon” who “has done a great deal to protect women.”
Conyers called the radio station from his hospital room on Tuesday, where he’s been recovering since falling ill in the wake of the harassment allegations.
“I am retiring today,” he said. “I am in the process of putting together my retirement plans. I will have more about that very soon.”
The New York Times reported that Conyers continued to deny that he harassed any of his former employees and insisted that his legacy would not be damaged by the allegations.
MORE NEWS: Americans Are Losing Our Own Backyard
The Conyers announcement came the same day that black community leaders rallied in a church in Detroit, saying Conyers was being denied due process, and should not step down.
But they may be heartened that a Conyers will likely keep the seat.
While Rep. Conyers endorsed his son, John Conyers III, his great nephew, Ian Conyers, a Michigan state senator, announced Tuesday that he will run for the seat.
On Fox News on Tuesday morning, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee questioned the idea of a Conyers family dynasty, saying, “My gosh, what is this, a political kingdom, where you just pass the offices down to the next of kin?”
“I find that troubling, in a country that’s not supposed to operate like that,” he said.