Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, declined to criticize a high-ranking Democrat who has been accused of sexually harassing female staffers. Pelosi asserted that the lawmaker deserved due process.
On Nov. 26, Pelosi defended Democrat Rep. John Conyers of Michigan against allegations of sexual harassment.
"John Conyers is an icon in our country," Pelosi told NBC News. "He's a done a great deal to protect women."
Conyers, 88, is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. He recently resigned from the committee amid the allegations.
On Nov. 20, BuzzFeed News obtained a wrongful dismissal complaint against Conyers. A female staffer had alleged that Conyers wrongfully fired her because she had rejected his sexual advances. The complaint contained four affidavits signed by former staffers alleging that Conyers had also harassed them. The government settled the complaint for $27,000 in 2015.
The complaint was provided to BuzzFeed by prominent alt-right organizer Mike Cernovich, who had offered to pay $10,000 for documents related to harassment settlements in Congress. BuzzFeed maintained that it did not pay Cernovich for the documents.
On Nov. 21, a former Conyers scheduler disclosed that she had attempted to file a lawsuit against Conyers in early 2017 but chose not to when told that she would not be able to preserve her anonymity. The former staffer alleged that Conyers made repeated sexual advances towards her and "created a hostile work environment."
On Nov. 22, ethics lawyer Melanie Sloan alleged that Conyers had verbally abused her when she worked as his staffer in the 1990s. Sloan said that while Conyers did not make sexual advances towards her, she alleged that he repeatedly bullied her and once held a meeting with her only clad in his underwear.
"I was pretty taken aback to see my boss half-dressed," Sloan told The Washington Post. "I turned on my heel and I left."
On Nov. 23, the House Ethics Committee announced an investigation into Conyers' conduct.
Conyers has denied all allegations of misconduct. He also asserted that the wrongful dismissal settlement was a severance payment and not an an admission of wrongdoing, according to ABC News.
"Congressman Conyers has no plans to resign ... If people were required to resign over allegations, a lot of people would be out of work in this country, including many members of the House, Senate and even the president," Conyers' lawyer, Arnold E. Reed, said in a statement.
Pelosi stated during her interview that Conyers would cooperate with the ethics probe. She pushed back when asked if the Michigan Democrat should step down from the Judiciary Committee.
"He will do the right thing in terms of what he knows about his situation, that he's entitled to due process, but women are entitled to due process as well," Pelosi said.
When the House Majority Leader was asked if she believed in Conyers' accusers, she responded "I don't know who they are ... They have not come forward."
Later that day, Conyers announced on social media that he would step down as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.
"I deny these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger," Conyers tweeted out. "I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics."