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Veteran US Congressman Conyers Retires Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations

  • VOA News

FILE - Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., flanked by other top Democrats, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The longest-serving member of the U.S. Congress, John Conyers, retired Tuesday, amid multiple allegations that he had made unwanted sexual advances on women who worked for him.

Conyers, in a radio interview, endorsed his son, John Conyers III, to replace him in the House of Representatives as a congressman from the Detroit area.

The elder Conyers had a long record of promoting civil rights causes and co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus, but he becomes the first lawmaker to quit during the current raft of sexual harassment allegations that have toppled or embarrassed prominent men in U.S. entertainment, media and political circles.

"My legacy can't be compromised or diminished in any way by what we're going through now," said Conyers, who has denied the sexual misconduct allegations. "This, too, shall pass," he said, adding, "My legacy will continue through my children."

Several women have come forward recently, accusing the 88-year-old Conyers of harassment. Among them is former aide Marion Brown, who said her one-time boss propositioned her for sex multiple times over more than a decade. Brown, 61, told NBC's Today program that she was fired for rejecting Conyers's sexual advances.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the speaker of the chamber, Republican Paul Ryan, had called on Conyers, who served in Congress for 53 years, to step down.

Conyers acknowledged he had reached a $27,000 settlement with Brown, but denied her allegation of an unwanted advance and said he only settled the case to avoid protracted litigation.

The House Ethics Committee had launched an investigation into whether Conyers used taxpayer money in his office funds to settle the case, and whether he engaged in the sexual harassment of other women.

Congress has introduced legislation that, if passed, would end the two-decade-old practice of paying settlements with taxpayer money and force lawmakers to pay the damage claims out of their personal funds. The Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act would require transparent disclosure of the nature of claims settled in the Office of Congressional Compliance.

Both houses of Congress last week approved resolutions requiring mandatory annual anti-sexual harassment training for all 535 members of Congress and their staffs.

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