The assistant leader of the House Democrats reportedly said Wednesday that the sexual-misconduct charges against Rep. John Conyers Jr. might be false because all the complaining women are white.
Rep. James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, made the purported remarks Wednesday at a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus, according to Robert Draper, a reporter for New York Times Magazine and National Geographic.
“At this morning’s House Democratic caucus: James Clyburn compared Conyers’ accusers to the child murderer Susan Smith, who initially claimed a black man had abducted her kids. Clyburn said, these are all white women who’ve made these charges against Conyers,” Mr. Draper tweeted.
He said the report, which Mr. Clyburn and the Congressional Black Caucus quickly disputed, was “according to 2 sources. One told me Clyburn has used the Susan Smith parallel more than once, to members & staffers.”
Both Mr. Clyburn and Mr. Conyers are members of the CBC; Smith’s claim that a black man had kidnapped her children quickly fell apart and she was later convicted in a South Carolina court of murdering the kids by drowning them in the family car.
The CBC quickly said on its Twitter account that the reporter’s claims are “not accurate.”
Mr. Clyburn “used the Smith example to illustrate the dangers of convicting people before getting all the facts. Although Smith killed her kids, she blamed an innocent person & a lot of people believed that innocent person was guilty.”
The CBC went on to say that Mr. Draper’s sources were doing “nothing more than members changing the story because they want his leadership position.”
Mr. Clyburn himself also took to Twitter to say that Mr. Draper “is inaccurate in many regards. That discussion had nothing to with Conyers,” a claim the reporter quickly rebutted.
“That discussion was specifically & exclusively about Conyers, according to 2 attendees. Who else could you have been referring to when bringing up Susan Smith?” Mr. Draper asked rhetorically.
Mr. Draper also dismissed the CBC claim that Mr. Clyburn was merely warning about a rush to judgment.
“Correct,” he tweeted. “But with specific contextual reference to Conyers. Are you suggesting this was some detached academic discussion in which Conyers wasn’t brought up? Not credible & also not what the two attendees say.”
The reported dismissal of “white women” isn’t the first way Mr. Clyburn seemed dismissive of the sexual-abuse claims about Mr. Conyers.
In an exchange with reporters caught on videotape Wednesday, Mr. Clyburn suggested that lawmakers should face a different standard of judgment than film artists and journalists.
NBC producer Alex Moe asked Mr. Clyburn and Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, Louisiana Democrat and CBC chairman, why Mr. Conyers isn’t stepping down while such men as Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and Harvey Weinstein all have lost their jobs without formal legal processes.
“Who elected them?” Mr. Clyburn replied.
“So it’s different because he’s elected?” a female reporter asked about Mr. Conyers, although the clip ends and the elevator door closes before there’s a reply.