House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday that she believes one of the women who has accused Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) of harassment and that she has “not had the opportunity” to talk with the other women accusing the longtime congressman of sexual misconduct.
“[Melanie] Sloan told me that she had publicly discussed distressing experiences while on his staff,” Pelosi said in a statement. “I find the behavior Ms. Sloan described unacceptable and disappointing. I believe what Ms. Sloan has told me.”
Sloan, a well-known attorney and ethics advocate who worked for Conyers on Capitol Hill in the 1990s, said Conyers verbally abused her and one time summoned her to his office where he was dressed only in his underwear. Sloan is one of several women who have accused Conyers of inappropriate behavior, and the congressman reportedly settled a case brought by one of those women in 2015.
“I have not had the opportunity to speak with the other women, one of whom cannot speak publicly because of the secretive settlement process in place,” Pelosi continued in Monday’s statement. “That ridiculous system must be ended and victims who want to come forward to the Ethics Committee must be able to do so.”
Pelosi’s latest comments on the allegations came one day after she stopped short of calling for Conyers’ resignation on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and described him as “an icon,” drawing fierce criticism.
“We are strengthened by due process,” Pelosi said on Sunday. “Just because someone is accused — and was it one accusation? Is it two? I think there has to be — John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women.”
In that same appearance, she also called for reforms to how sexual harassment is addressed on Capitol Hill and backed ending the use of nondisclosure agreements in such cases.
Conyers has denied the allegations. On Sunday, he announced he would step down as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee while the House Ethics Committee investigates the accusations against him.
“I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics,” the congressman said in a statement.