U.S. Representative John Conyers of Michigan, a civil rights icon who helped found the Congressional Black Caucus, allegedly demanded sex from multiple female staffers and used congressional funds to transport women to his hotels and offices, according to a bombshell report from Buzzfeed News.
Buzzfeed obtained four signed affidavits from a wrongful dismissal complaint from a former Conyers employee who claimed she was fired after she refused to “succumb to [his[ sexual advances.” Conyers, the longest serving member of the House of Representatives, reportedly settled the complaint in 2015 by rehiring her as a “temporary employee” for a total payment of $27,000 taxpayer dollars in exchange for her silence. Speaking anonymously to Buzzfeed, the woman said she felt had no choice but to accept the settlement she was offered after she submitted her complaint to the Office of Compliance and was forced into a lengthy procedure that included having to sign a confidentially agreement.
“I was basically blackballed,” she said. “There was nowhere I could go.”
“It is a designed cover-up,” added Mathew Peterson, who worked as a law clerk representing the complainant, about the Office of Compliance’s regulations concerning victims who allege abuse. “You feel like they were betrayed by their government just for coming forward. It’s like being abused twice.”
On Tuesday, the 88-year-old congressman issued a statement acknowledging the settlement, The Associated Press reported, but denying wrongdoing. The statement said that Conyers’ office had “resolved the allegations” for “an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment,” but that he “vehemently” denied the accusations against him. Still, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi insisted Conyers should be subjected to an investigation by the House Ethics Committee.
In the documents, the former staffer alleged that Conyers, a Democrat, repeatedly asked her for sexual favors — for instance by asking her to work out of his hotel room and then demanding that she either touch his penis or find him another woman to do it instead. The employee was also allegedly forced to work nights and holidays to keep Conyers company. In another incident, Conyers allegedly tried to force her to share a hotel room with him, then asked her to “just cuddle up with me and caress me before you go.” The former employee added that Conyers would imply that if she provided sexual favors for him it would “lead to salary increases or promotions.”
Three other staff members who provided affidavits to the Office of Compliance also made disturbing allegations, including one woman who alleged that he made repeated sexual advances on her and even threw temper tantrums at her when she brought her husband around. And according to the documents obtained by Buzzfeed, these accusations may just have been the tip of the iceberg.
So what happens if you’re a congressional staffer and you want to file a sexual harassment claim? Well, as MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt reports, anyone who dares to report misconduct is sent on an odyssey through a convoluted labyrinth of bureaucracy — all subsidized by American taxpayers. It’s no wonder things are such a mess. Watch Hunt explain it all in the video below.
Read the full story at Buzzfeed News.