Rep. John Conyers, Michigan Democrat, stepped aside Sunday from his ranking position on the House Judiciary Committee while the House ethics committee investigates allegations of sexual harassment.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that, as a mother of four daughters, she takes accusations of sexual harassment seriously, and called for the ethics investigation after a woman alleged Mr. Conyers fired her for refusing his sexual advances.
“Any credible accusation must be reviewed by the Ethics Committee expeditiously. We are at a watershed moment on this issue, and no matter how great an individual’s legacy, it is not a license for harassment,” Ms. Pelosi, California Democrat, said in a statement released Sunday afternoon.
Ms. Pelosi’s comments on Mr. Conyers decision to step aside came after she had appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and refused to say if she would remove him from his Judiciary Committee post and defended his record, calling him an “icon.”
“John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women — the Violence Against Women Act,” Ms. Pelosi told NBC Sunday morning. “He did great work on that.”
Mr. Conyers denies allegations of wrongdoing and announced his decision to temporarily leave his leadership post on Twitter Sunday afternoon.
“After careful consideration and In light of the attention drawn by recent allegations made against me, I have notified the Democratic Leader of my request to step aside as Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee during the investigation of these matters,” Mr. Conyers said.
Ms. Pelosi also is calling for Congress to reform the Office of Compliance and Congressional Accountability Act to end settlement payouts with tax dollars for sexual harassment claims.
“We must ensure the Congress has a climate of dignity and respect with zero tolerance for sexual harassment,” she said.