WASHINGTON ― Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), accused by multiple female former staffers of sexual misconduct, should resign from Congress if the allegations are “founded,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday.
“The reason this is difficult to deal with is because we all believe in due process, I hope,” Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “We all believe that people have the opportunity to say, ‘Look, I didn’t do this.’ Notwithstanding the credibility of the witnesses, we have a process to determine: Were these allegations founded? And if they’re founded, yes, he should resign.”
Hoyer said on Tuesday he believes the women who have come forward with allegations against Conyers, the longest-serving current member of the House. An ethics investigation into the claims could take months or even years, since some of the incidents occurred long ago.
Conyers this week stepped aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee in response to the investigation.
He faces mounting pressure to resign from Democratic lawmakers, including legislators in the Congressional Black Caucus, of which he is a founding member. Some in the group have privately tried to convince Conyers to step down and “protect his legacy,” CNN reported Tuesday.
Publicly, the caucus is standing by Conyers.
“Any decision to resign from office before the ethics investigation is complete is John’s decision to make,” CBC Chair Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said in a statement on Tuesday.
Richmond, facing questions from reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday, asked for examples of alleged sexual predators losing their jobs. Many prominent men in the entertainment and media industries have faced swift and dramatic consequences after sexual misconduct allegations, but politicians have not.
In response, CBC member Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, suggested that Conyers’ situation is different because politics is involved.
“Who elected them?” Clyburn asked, before he and Richmond disappeared into an elevator.
Earlier this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) defended Conyers, calling him “an icon.” She refused to say whether she believed his accusers, or whether he should resign.
Pelosi later issued a statement affirming that she believes one of Conyers’ accusers, Melanie Sloan, an attorney who worked for him on the House Judiciary Committee.
In addition to Sloan, Deanna Maher, Conyers’ former deputy chief of staff, has also publicly come forward with allegations that Conyers propositioned her for sex and touched her inappropriately.
The women’s stories follow a BuzzFeed report on allegations by multiple unnamed staffers, including one who received a monetary settlement from Conyers in 2015.