WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday called on Democratic Representative John Conyers to resign, calling sexual harassment allegations against him serious and credible, but Conyers’ attorney said he was not thinking of stepping down.
“It is not up to Nancy Pelosi,” attorney Arnold Reed told reporters in Detroit, Michigan. “Nancy Pelosi did not elect the congressman, and she sure as hell won’t be the one that tells the congressman to leave.”
“That decision will be completely up to the congressman. He’s not thought of that,” Reed said. Instead, Conyers, 88, was focusing on his health after being hospitalized late on Wednesday after suffering dizziness, light-headedness and shortness of breath, Reed said.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, Pelosi said “zero tolerance means consequences for everyone.”
“The brave women who came forward are owed justice,” she said. “Congressman Conyers should resign.”
Conyers, the longest-serving member in the House, is one of numerous public figures who have been accused in recent weeks of sexual harassment and misconduct. Others include former Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein, Democratic Senator Al Franken and Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.
While Conyers, who has served in the House since 1965, has acknowledged settling with one former staffer over her claims of harassment, he has denied wrongdoing. He has already stepped down as the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee in the face of a House Ethics Committee probe.
Pelosi’s call for his resignation marked a shift. She had previously called for the ethics investigation, but had stopped short of saying Conyers should resign.
Adding to the pressure, House Speaker Paul Ryan, the leading Republican in the chamber, also called for Conyers’ resignation. He referred to allegations detailed in a television interview on Thursday morning by a former Conyers’ staffer, Marion Brown.
Brown told NBC’s “Today” show that the congressman had “violated my body” and frequently propositioned her for sex.
“No one should have to go through something like that, let alone here in Congress, so yes I think he should resign. He should resign immediately,” said Ryan.
Reuters has not verified the allegations.
Republican and Democratic House members on Wednesday introduced a bill that would bar public funds from being used to settle sexual harassment claims against members and require previously made payments to be made public.
Conyers reportedly used public funds to settle the claim from the woman who worked in his office.
Additional reporting by Makini Brice, Katanga Johnson and Richard Cowan; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Andrew Hay