U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich, has been accused of secretly making a $27,000 settlement for a sexual harassment claim by an employee in 2015, according to a BuzzFeed News report. In the article, BuzzFeed reported they have received affidavits from four former congressional employees who claim they had seen Conyers making sexual advances toward female employees.
The report states that while three of these affidavits have been notarized, all four come from documents within a complaint reporting Conyers had “made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sex acts, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public.”
The documents also include details of the 2015 dismissal complaint settlement, a process which the alleged victim described to BuzzFeed News as one that provided her no other choice but to keep her accusations a secret and accept the settlement offer.
“I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go,” she told BuzzFeed News.
Other representatives have spoken out against Conyers, calling the reports deeply troubling, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
Later, Conyers confirmed he reached a financial settlement with the staffer who brought a case against him for sexual harassment but emphasized he did not admit to guilt in the case.
“I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so,” Conyers said in a statement. “My office resolved the allegations — with an express denial of liability — to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation. That should not be lost in the narrative.”
Engineering sophomore Lincoln Merrill, press correspondent for the University of Michigan’s chapter of College Republicans, stated that while he finds the allegations alarming, immediate repercussions for the accused perpetrators may not be entirely visible.
“The number of allegations that have come out in the past month is ridiculous. It’s an interesting note that on both sides of the aisle there’s been so many allegations recently,” Merrill said. “I don’t think it’s going to change anything visibly but I think it will change people’s attitudes towards government.”
In a statement to The Daily, Public Policy junior Lauren Schandevel, communications director for the University of Michigan's chapter of College Democrats, highlighted the importance of looking at such issues in a non-partisan manner, and said the organization will be continuing to monitor the outcomes of this case.
“The reports are troubling and we will be watching intently over the next few weeks to see how this unfolds,” she wrote. “Charges of sexual misconduct are extremely serious and should be condemned regardless of the perpetrator’s political leanings.”