House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declined to say whether her longtime colleague Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) should resign from the chamber as he faces sexual harassment allegations.
“We are strengthened by due process. Just because someone is accused — was it one accusation or is it two? … John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women,” Pelosi told Chuck Todd Sunday on NBC News’ Meet the Press. “As John reviews his case, I believe he will do the right thing.”
The House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into Conyers’ conduct following a report that he had sexually harassed a former staffer. Pelosi was among the Democrats to call for that investigation and Conyers said he would fully cooperate.
Conyers announced shortly after Pelosi’s interview Sunday that he was stepping down from his position as ranking chairman of the House Judiciary Committee while the ethics committee investigates his conduct. In a statement following that announcement, Pelosi said that the power of a legacy should not undermine the legitimacy of sexual harassment claims. “Zero tolerance means consequences,” she said.
Buzzfeed reported on Nov. 20 that Conyers had reached a settlement that exceeded $27,000 with a former staffer who alleged that the congressman had sexually harassed her and she was fired because she rejected his advances.The following day, Buzzfeed reported that another of Conyers’ former staffers had tried to sue him for making sexual overtures toward her and creating a hostile work environment, but the former staffer withdrew the claim when the court would not let the complaint remain sealed.
Conyers, 88, denied the first reported allegation, although he acknowledged that a settlement had existed. Regarding the second allegation, a spokesperson for Conyers’ office told TIME that the former staffer had decided to drop the case.
While on Meet the Press. Pelosi did not respond directly when asked if she believed Conyers’ accusers. “I don’t know who they are. They have not really come forward,” she said.
When pressed again, she replied that the review was under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee.
Pelosi did however say that the nondisclosure agreements that are part of the settlement cases need to be reformed.
“We want to give people hope this is going to be addressed. Women have spoken out,” she said.
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