WASHINGTON ― Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) announced Tuesday that he is retiring from Congress following pressure from lawmakers to step down over multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
“I am retiring today,” Conyers said on a radio program called “The Mildred Gaddis Show.”
Conyers, 88, the longest-serving current member of the House, has denied the allegations, which include touching female staffers inappropriately and propositioning them for sex. He repeated that denial Tuesday, calling the allegations “not accurate.”
“I can’t explain where they came from,” Conyers said.
He told Gaddis his legacy “can’t be compromised or diminished in any way” by the allegations, arguing it will continue through his children.
“This too shall pass,” he said.
Conyers endorsed his son, John Conyers III, to succeed him in Congress.
Conyers previously announced that he would temporarily step down as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, pending the results of a House ethics investigation into the allegations.
He has since faced mounting pressure from lawmakers to resign outright, including from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), after the latter previously defended him in light of the allegations.
In response, Conyers’ attorney, Arnold Reed, denounced the congressman’s accusers at several news conferences.
Conyers was recently hospitalized after experiencing “lightheadedness and shortness of breath,” according to Reed. A family friend told The Detroit News that Conyers felt under “tremendous stress.”
BuzzFeed first reported in November that multiple unnamed female staffers had accused Conyers of misconduct, including one case in which the accuser received a monetary settlement in 2015. That accuser later revealed herself to be Marion Brown, Conyers’ deputy chief of staff from 2003 to 2014, breaking a nondisclosure agreement that prohibited her from speaking publicly about the settlement.
Since the initial report, multiple other former staffers have spoken publicly about improper behavior they experienced while working for Conyers.
On Monday night, former staffer Elisa Grubbs said Conyers groped her and that such behavior “was a regular part of life while working in the office of Rep. Conyers,” according to an affidavit released by her attorney, Lisa Bloom.
Grubbs also claimed that she once saw Conyers come out of the bathroom “completely naked while he knew I was in the room” and that he “regularly undressed in front of female office staff.”
Deanna Maher, Conyers’ former deputy chief of staff, told The Detroit News that in 1997, she turned down his offer for sex at a Washington hotel and that he inappropriately touched her in two subsequent incidents.
Melanie Sloan, an attorney who worked for Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee, told The Washington Post that he verbally abused her and appeared half-naked at a meeting in his office.
The allegations against Conyers have sparked increased calls for reforming Congress’ system for addressing sexual misconduct incidents involving lawmakers and staffers, which has been criticized for its lack of transparency and lack of fairness toward accusers.
Paige Lavender contributed to this report.