One of the biggest newspapers in Detroit is calling on Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to step down after recent revelations about sexual harassment.
Conyers, the longest-serving current member of the U.S. House of Representatives, “has been an undisputed hero of the civil rights movement, a legislator of uncommon influence and power, and an aging icon,” a Detroit Free Press editorial said. The newspaper contended the legacy of Conyers, whose district includes part of Detroit, will be forever marred by accusations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward female staffers.
“We reach this conclusion with an incredible amount of disappointment,” the newspaper said. “The word “hero” is invoked, without much hyperbole, around Conyers’ name, dating not only to his initial run for Congress in the mid-1960s, but to the stalwart civil rights activism in the 1950s and early 1960s that brought him to that point ... it’s a tragic end to his public career. But it’s the appropriate consequence for the stunning subterfuge his office has indulged here, and a needed warning to other members of Congress that this can never be tolerated.”
A bombshell BuzzFeed report published early Tuesday centered around one woman who said she was fired for refusing Conyers’ advances, and also included sworn testimony from several other former staffers detailing widespread misconduct. The House Ethics Committee on Tuesday announced it would investigated the claims, which Conyers has said he “expressly and vehemently denied.”
Conyers in 2015 settled the wrongful dismissal complaint for $27,111 in taxpayer money without admitting fault. The Detroit Free Press took issue with the settlement payment, which Conyers has downplayed as severance, but which the newspaper likened to “hush money.”
“This agreement disrupted the accepted process to deal with claims against members of Congress, and leveraged taxpayer funds — without the oversight of the ethics apparatus of the body itself — to make this claim go away,” the newspaper said. “That’s not acceptable, on any level. And it’s a betrayal that breaches the most fundamental trust that exists between a public servant and the people that person represents.”
Read the full editorial here.