A dozen of Rep. John Conyers’ (D-Mich.) female former staffers are defending their ex-boss amid a wave of sexual harassment allegations against him.
In a statement sent to HuffPost on Sunday, the women said Conyers had been a “gentleman” and “respectful” while they worked for him. They did not address the specific accusations reported Monday by Buzzfeed News, in which several female former staffers claimed Conyers made unwanted sexual advances toward them.
“While we do not pass judgment on the specific allegations reported in the press or the women who brought them, our experiences with Mr. Conyers were quite different than the image of him being portrayed in the media,” the former staffers wrote in their statement.
“Mr. Conyers was a gentleman and never behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner in our presence,” they continued. “He was respectful, valued our opinions, challenged our thinking, and treated us as professionals.”
The women, whose combined tenures working for Conyers span across 30 years, said they supported letting the House Ethics Committee’s investigation into the matter “run its course.” Conyers has continued to deny the allegations.
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) became the first Democratic lawmaker to call on Conyers to resign. She said Friday that an ethics investigation, which could take years to conduct, wouldn’t amount to “real” accountability.
“Enough is enough,” Rice said Friday during an appearance on CNN. “We’re not talking about a court of law here. We are talking about the court of public opinion. We’re talking about holding men accountable for their actions.”
Other Democratic members of Congress have been tight-lipped over the allegations against Conyers. On Sunday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wouldn’t say whether Conyers should resign. Instead, she called Conyers “an icon in our country” and repeatedly stated that she believed he would “do the right thing.”
Hours later, Conyers announced his decision to step down as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee in light of the pending investigation.
“I deny these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger,” Conyers wrote in his statement Sunday. “I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics.”