Longest-serving US congressman retires after sex harassment claims
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Veteran Democrat John Conyers announced Tuesday he is retiring from the US 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.
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."
He also took the opportunity to endorse his son, John Conyers III, to replace him in his congressional seat.
The lawmaker was abandoned by party leadership when the seriousness of the allegations against him became apparent.
But the civil rights icon, who worked with Martin Luther King Jr, 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," Conyers said, speaking on the Mildred Gaddis Show.
Several female former staffers have come forward in the past two weeks with allegations against him.
One of them, Marion Brown, last week broke a non-disclosure agreement that she signed after receiving compensation when she left her job in Conyers's office, saying she "felt compelled" to speak out.
"It was sexual harassment, violating my body, propositioning me, inviting me to hotels with the guise of discussing business and then propositioning me for sex," Brown told NBC.
Wounded by the mounting accusations, and well aware of the potentially explosive implications for Democrats' efforts to win congressional seats in next year's mid-term elections, the party's congressional leadership called for Conyers to step down.
Jerrold Nadler, who replaced Conyers when he stepped down from his leadership role on the House Judiciary Committee, said he was "saddened" by the developments.
"With that said, there can be no tolerance for behavior that subjects women to the kind of conduct that has been alleged," Nadler added.
Conyers is one of four sitting US lawmakers hit by allegations of sexual misconduct in the wake of the accusations targeting movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, which triggered a torrent of accusations against powerful figures in the worlds of entertainment, media and politics.
The others are Senate Democrat Al Franken, House Democrat Ruben Kihuen, and House Republican Blake Farenthold.
© 2017 AFP