Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has been accused of sexually harassing female staffers.
He has been accused of trying to coerce employees into having sex with him. Conyers, who has served in Congress since 1965, has been accused of inappropriate touching, caressing, and other sexually-charged improprieties.
His office has also been accused of using highly-unusual, and most likely illegal, accounting tricks and public funds to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit from a former staffer who claims he sexually harassed her.
The sexual misconduct allegations are credible, and the accusations of financial irregularities appear substantiated.
So, naturally, someone from the congressman's party has gone on the record to suggest the charges could be fabricated.
Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., told the New York Times this week he’s not convinced the sexual harassment accusations “have any real substance.”
“You can’t jump to conclusions with these types of things,” said Clyburn, who serves as a top-ranking member of Democratic leadership in the House. “For all I know, all of this could be made up.”
Good work, Clyburn. That’s the same argument that Democrats and their allies said was loathsome when it was deployed during the 2016 presidential election by Donald Trump and his hardcore supporters. The-women-could-be-lying defense is the same one that Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and his defenders are using to dismiss charges that he sexually assaulted 14- and 16-year-old girls when he was in his 30s. Excellent work undercutting your own team’s message.
This is to say nothing of the fact that there is documentation suggesting Conyers' office has indeed engaged in extremely suspicious behavior pointing to a sexual harassment cover-up.
Also, Clyburn should have thought to check with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who said this week of the Conyers scandal that "any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee [and that there should be] zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying, or abuse in the House.”
Maybe the congressman will remember next time to go over her notes before going on the record with the New York Times. Man alive.
Conyers, for his part, has denied the allegations, which were first reported by BuzzFeed News. But it’s worth noting that his language is very carefully parsed.
"In our country, we strive to honor this fundamental principle that all are entitled to due process. In this case, I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so,” said the congressman, who is currently the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
He added, “My office resolved the allegations — with an express denial of liability — in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation.”
The House Ethics Committee announced Tuesday it would investigate the sexual misconduct allegations brought against Conyers.
That’s nice and all, but pardon me if I’m a bit pessimistic about the outcome of an investigation performed by the same governing body that runs a secretive, publicly-funded slush fund to pay out sexual harassment lawsuits.
Conyers must be shaking in his boots, yes indeed.