Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) released a statement on Tuesday, calling on fellow Democratic Rep. John Conyers (Mich.) to resign now that former female employees have come forward saying he sexually harassed them.
Several Democrats have said that Conyers should face a congressional ethics investigation, but Jayapal is among the first to publicly demand his resignation. Politico reported that a group of Democrats, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, also privately urged Conyers to resign this week.
Allegations emerged earlier in the month regarding Conyers’ alleged inappropriate behavior, which ranged from unwanted touching to threatening to punish those who rejected his advances.
“It is not easy for me to reach this conclusion because, as a civil rights activist, I have looked up to Representative Conyers for decades,” Jayapal wrote. “I believe these women, I see the pattern and there is only one conclusion—Rep. Conyers must resign.”
She added that Democrats cannot ignore Conyers’ abuses while condemning President Donald Trump and Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, both of whom have been accused of sexual misconduct.
“This is a watershed moment where, finally, the country seems to be waking up and realizing we need to have a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment. We cannot pick and choose,” Jayapal said. “Democrats cannot lambast Trump and Moore, and then turn a blind eye to our own who face credible charges against them.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had defended the lawmaker, calling him an “icon” whose accusers she does not know. On Tuesday, however, Pelosi walked back her defense after speaking with one of the accusers, Melanie Sloan. The lawmaker said she still thinks an investigation should be launched.
It is not easy for me to reach this conclusion because, as a civil rights activist, I have looked up to Representative Conyers for decades. I believe these women, I see the pattern and there is only one conclusion – Rep. Conyers must resign. pic.twitter.com/5RJUmEuRNf
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) November 28, 2017
Jayapal granted that it is difficult to acknowledge the misdeeds of such an “icon,” noting, “No one ever wants to believe that someone they respect and have regarded as a champion for civil rights issues would abuse their power to harm and harass women.”
Conyers has denied the allegations leveled against him, saying that settlements he has reached with women do not prove any guilt.
“I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics,” Conyers wrote in a letter to Pelosi on Sunday.
But in her statement, Jayapal said people should start believing women rather than men’s denials.
“Sexual harassment is extremely difficult to prove in any court of law. That means that efforts to stop harassment must recognize that there will be gray areas,” she said. “Women will come forward and men will deny. The question is: What is society’s response? To truly change norms and cultures, we need to start believing women from the get-go.”
Conyers has stepped down from his role as ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee amid the accusations.
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