In Summary
  • Veteran US Democrat John Conyers has denied the sexual harassment claims.
  • Conyers is one of four sitting US lawmakers hit by allegations of sexual misconduct in the wake of the claims targeting movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
  • Many powerful figures in the worlds of entertainment, media and politics have been accused of sexual harassment.

WASHINGTON

Veteran US Democrat John Conyers announced on Tuesday he is leaving the House of Representatives after more than five decades in office, following a series of sexual harassment accusations by former staffers.

"I am retiring today," Conyers, 88, told a Detroit radio station, as he became the first to step down among four serving US lawmakers facing sexual misconduct allegations.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

He also endorsed his son, John Conyers III, to replace him in his congressional seat.

Speaking from an unnamed hospital where he reportedly was being treated for stress-related complications, the longest-serving member of Congress maintained that the allegations against him "are not true," and that he could not explain their origin.

The lawmaker was abandoned by party leadership when the seriousness of the allegations against him became apparent, and as Congress grapples with how to address the issue of sexual misconduct.

RETIRING

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee took to the House floor to read a letter by Conyers to his colleagues, saying he notified the Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi that he was vacating his seat.

"I was taught by a great woman, my mother, to honour women," Conyers wrote, according to the congresswoman.

"Given the totality of the circumstance of not being afforded the right of due process in conjunction with current health conditions and to preserve my legacy and good name, I am retiring."

A Conyers lawyer, Arnold Reed, said the departure was effective immediately.

LEGACY

It marked a stunning and rapid fall for one of America's civil rights pioneers, a man who worked with Martin Luther King Jr and hired rights icon Rosa Parks on his congressional staff, where she worked for 23 years.

But Conyers, who took his Michigan seat in 1965 and was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, insisted that his record would not be tarnished by the accusations.

"My legacy can't be compromised or diminished in any way by what we're going through now. This too shall pass," he said, speaking on the Mildred Gaddis Show.

FELT VIOLATED

Several female former staffers have come forward in the past two weeks with damning allegations.

Page 1 of 2