Rep. John Conyers steps down from committee leadership position amid harassment accusations

WASHINGTON — Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., stepped down as the ranking Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee on Sunday, following sexual harassment accusations.

The 27-term congressman said he denied the allegations, but was stepping down because of the ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation.

"I deny these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger. I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics," Conyers said in a statement.

"To be clear, I would like very much to remain as Ranking Member," he added. "There is still much work to be done on core concerns like securing civil rights, enacting meaningful criminal justice reform, and protecting access to the ballot box."

Earlier in the day, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi urged “due process” before making conclusions about Rep. Conyers, saying the congressman is “an icon” who has worked to protect women.

"We are strengthened by due process. Just because someone is accused — and was it one accusation? Is it two?” Pelosi asked on “Meet The Press.”

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US Representative John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, speaks regarding a lawsuit members of Congress have filed against US President Donald Trump for violating the emoluments clause of the US Constitution which bans Presidents from accepting payments, benefits or gifts from foreign states without the consent of Congress, during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 26: Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) questions witnesses during a House Judiciary Committee hearing concerning the oversight of the U.S. refugee admissions program, on Capitol Hill, October 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Trump administration is expected to set the fiscal year 2018 refugee ceiling at 45,000, down from the previous ceiling at 50,000. It would be the lowest refugee ceiling since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and ranking member Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) participate in a markup hearing before the House Judiciary Committee March 29, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a markup hearing on H.Res.184, Resolution of inquiry requesting the President and directing the Attorney General to transmit, respectively, certain documents to the House of Representatives relating to communications with the government of Russia; and H.Res.203, Resolution of inquiry requesting the President, and directing the Attorney General, to transmit, respectively, certain documents to the House of Representatives relating to certain communications by the President of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 27: Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., walks down the House steps after a vote in the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 27: From left, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Reps. Sander Levin, D-Mich., Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and John Conyers, D-Mich., attend a news conference in the Capitol to call for aid for the Flint water crisis be included in the government funding bill, September 27, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 04: United States Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), left, stands next to United States Representative John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), right, as they announce a bill called, Employ Young Americans Now Act at HOPE (Helping Other People Excel) Project on Thursday June 04, 2015 in Washington, DC. The bill aims at an increase of job training for younger individuals. (Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13: Rep. John Conyers (C) (D-MI) and Rep. Donna Edwards (R) (D-MD) carry petitions to the White House supporting the expansion of Social Security benefits following a rally July 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Social Security Works, the AFL-CIO and additional organizations held the event to deliver 'more than 2 million petition signatures' in support of expanding Social Security benefits. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 04: Dennis Edwards and Congressman John Conyers, Jr. attends the 2015 R&B Music Hall Of Fame at The Wright Museum on October 4, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Monica Morgan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 16: (L-R) Representative John Conyers, Kirk Whalum and Eddie Money speak during Advocacy Day 2015 at Capitol Hill on April 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage for NARAS)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 25: Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., speak during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on 'The Unconstitutionality of Obama's Executive Actions on Immigration' on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 13: Rep. John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich., speaks as House Democrats hold a news conference to call for presidential action on immigration on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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“John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women - 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,” she added. “But the fact is, as John reviews his case, which he knows, which I don’t, I believe he will do the right thing.”

Conyers’ office recently confirmed issuing a settlement of $27,000 to a former staffer who says she was fired for resisting the congressman’s sexual advances. Conyers has acknowledged the payout, which he said amounted to a severance package, but he denied the allegations about what it was for.

The payout from Conyers’ office first became public in a report published by Buzzfeed on Monday, and came after a number of men in powerful positions in politics, entertainment and media have faced public accusations of sexual harassment. The accusations have opened up a national conversation about how women are treated in the workplace by men in positions of power.

When asked specifically whether she believes the accusations against Conyers, Pelosi said: “I do not know who they are. Do you? They have not really come forward.”

She repeatedly said that she wants to see the House Ethics Committee investigation of Conyers play out.

Conyers has held a powerful position on Capitol Hill as ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, but after Pelosi's interview on Sunday, he announced that he would step down from the position while the Ethics Committee investigates.

Pelosi said in a statement later Sunday, "Zero tolerance means consequences. I have asked for an ethics investigation, and as that investigation continues, Congressman Conyers has agreed to step aside as Ranking Member."

Pelosi was also asked whether she would accept an apology from Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, who has apologized after being accused of unwanted touching from multiple women, if no other accusers surfaced.

"His accusers have to accept an apology," Pelosi said. "The victims have some say in all of this, as well. And that has happened in the past. People have accepted an apology, as is coming forth now that I see in the press.”

The reporting process on Capitol Hill for sexual harassment claims is a very long and arduous process that can take months to play out, but Pelosi said the House is expected to soon take up new action aimed at preventing such conduct when they vote this week on a resolution that would require all lawmakers and their staff members to go through antiharassment training. The Senate passed a similar measure earlier this month.

Pelosi’s comments Sunday also came while Democrats and many Republican leaders have called for Alabama’s GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore to exit the race, since Moore is facing sexual misconduct accusations from nine women, including one who says he molested her when she was 14 and he was 32. Moore has denied all of the allegations.

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Nancy Pelosi through the years
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WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 8: File photo dated 08 May, 1996 shows US Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, speaking during a Capitol Hill press conference in Washington, DC. House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt (R, D-MO) is expected to announce 07 November, 2002 that he will not seek another term after the Republican opponents took both the House of Representatives and the Senate in mid-term elections 05 November. One of two Democrats vying to fill the spot is is Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi; the other is chairman of the Democratic caucus Martin Frost (D, TX). (Photo credit should read J. DAVID AKE/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20: US President Bill Clinton signs the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act Amendments of 1996 20 May at the White House in Washington DC. Standing behind Clinton are (L-R) Jeanne White, mother of Ryan, White House Aide Patsy Fleming, Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), Rep. Henry Waxman(D-CA), Rep. Nancy Pelosi(D-CA). (Photo credit should read CHUCK KENNEDY/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 25: HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS: Ranking member Nancy Pelosi ,D-Calif., during the House Appropriations,Foreign Operations subcommittee markup of FY 98 foreign operations appropriations. (Photo by Douglas Graham/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
SLUG:NA/BAILOUT DATE:9/26/08 WASHINGTON, DC CREDIT: DOMINIC BRACCO II From left, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) speak during a press conference about legislation for a bailout of the financial crisis on Capitol Hill on Sept. 26, 2008. (Photo by Dominic Bracco Ii/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
Washington, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush is applauded by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (R) and Vice President Dick Cheney (L) as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington 23 January 2007. AFP PHOTO/Larry Downing/Pool (Photo credit should read LARRY DOWNING/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 10: WHIP RACE--Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, victor in the Democratic Whip race, talks to reporters and celebrates with supporting members after the Democratic caucus elected her to replace outgoing Whip David E. Bonior, D-Mich., who is running for governor of Michigan. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA,L) newly elected Democratic Minority Leader raises her hand with outgoing leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) 14 November, 2002 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Pelosi's election marks the first time in the history of the US Congress that a woman will lead her party. AFP PHOTO MIKE THEILER (Photo credit should read MIKE THEILER/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 26: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to the California delegate breakfast in Boston, Massachusetts on the first day of the Democratic National Convention, July 26, 2004. (Photo by Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 02: STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS--House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and 2004 presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., talk before President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
Congressman John Lewis, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Harry Belafonte, Jessie Jackson and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (Photo by Moses Robinson/WireImage)
WASHINGTON - JUNE 04: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addresses the 2008 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center June 4, 2008 in Washington, DC. Democratic U.S. presidential hopefuls Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) are scheduled to speak to the same event. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - MAY 22: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol May 22, 2009 in Washington, DC. Pelosi turned the news conference into an opportunity to list what she and the Democratic House leadership considered their successes of the 111th Congress' first session. She took a handful of questions about her upcomming trip to China and her statements about the CIA. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 23: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, right, and Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, shakes hands while addressing the media before a meeting at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 23, 2009. Maliki pledged to mend sectarian divisions and fight corruption as he urged the international community to continue providing support to his nation. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC- Jan. 05: House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, accepts the gavel from outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as the 112th Congress convenes at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) works with staff before a vote on the House floor during a typically busy day on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, Thursday, June 23, 2011. (Photo by Melina Mara/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES â DECEMBER 1: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds her weekly on camera news conference in the Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 22: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (L) and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi attends the Public Counsel's 2012 William O. Douglas Dinner at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 22, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05: House Minority Leader Sen. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) waves as she takes the stage during day two of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 5, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC that will run through September 7, will nominate U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 14: House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to the media as female House Democrats gather around during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, on November 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. Leader Pelosi said that she has decided continue to lead the House Democrats and does not wish to retire at this time. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, bottom center, stands for a photograph with Democratic women of the House on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. 65 House Democratic women are part of the 114th Congress, the largest number of women in a party Caucus in the history of the Congress of the United States. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 07: (L-R) Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore, Apple's SVP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, CEO of Apple Tim Cook, music producer Jimmy Iovine and Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi attend the Pre-GRAMMY Gala and Salute to Industry Icons honoring Martin Bandier at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - JULY 15: Vice President Joe Biden and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leave a meeting with House Democrats in the Capitol Visitor Center where Biden briefed members on the nuclear deal with Iran, July 15, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 14: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., introduces presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton to the press for her on the Iran nuclear deal following her meeting with House Democrats during their weekly caucus meeting in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, July 14, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi works with staff in her House Leadership office during a typically hectic legislative day on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Wednesday May 18, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) walks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi after attending a meeting with the House Democratic Caucus on June 22, 2016 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 28: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday, July 28, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 14: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), chats with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), during a memorial service to honor the late Rep. Mark Takai (D-HI), 49, who died from pancreatic cancer last July, at the US Capitol September 14, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 21: (L-R) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) drive nails into a piece of lumber at the 'First Nail Ceremony' September 21, 2016 outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The ceremony marked the official launch of construction on the Inaugural platform where the next President of the United States will take the oath of office on Friday, January 20, 2017. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 22: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) answers questions during her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol September 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. Pelosi answered questions on a range of topics, including congressional negotiations on a new continuing resolution. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, right, shakes hands with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, following a meeting in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. During their closed-door meeting, Pelosi expressed strong concerns about Trump's decision to name former Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon to be his chief White House strategist, and asked him to reconsider the appointment. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Bloomberg
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Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is one of the Republican lawmakers who has called for Moore to step aside, and on Sunday said that if he were a voter in Alabama, he’d “probably vote for a Republican, but it wouldn‘t be Roy Moore.”

“As the women went on the record, I thought there was a lot of credibility in what they were saying,” Portman said on "Meet The Press." “I didn’t find the response very credible and that's how I came up with my position.”

As the national conversation on sexual harassment has accelerated, the reaction to numerous allegations from the 1990s has also been revisited.

Anita Hill accused U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment when she worked for him at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and later testified about it during his 1991 Senate confirmation hearing. Thomas denied the allegations.

Now a professor at Brandeis University, Hill said on “Meet The Press” that “unfortunately, 26 years ago, Washington wasn’t ready to lead on this issue, and I’m afraid even today Washington cannot lead the country on this issue. There seems to be so many conflicted feelings and understandings about what needs to happen when sexual misconduct occurs.”

Pelosi, meanwhile, also said the reaction to sexual misconduct accusations against former President Bill Clinton from that era versus today represent “obviously a generational change.”

“The concern that we had then was that they were impeaching the president of the United States, and for something that had nothing to do with the performance of his duties, and trying to take him out for that reason," Pelosi added. "But let's go forward. Let's go forward. I think that something wonderful is happening now, very credible. It's 100 years, almost 100 years, since women got the right to vote. Here we are, almost 100 years later, and something very transformative is happening.”

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