U.S. Rep. John Conyers announces plans to retire

U.S. Rep. John Conyers at a rally for health care in January.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers at a rally for health care in January. Buy this photo
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Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 10:51am

U.S. Rep. John Conyers announced his plans to retire Tuesday morning, an announcement that comes amid a series of sexual harassment allegations. Conyers is the longest currently serving representative; in his more than 50 years in Congress, he been a champion of civil rights.

In his announcement, Conyers endorsed his son John Conyers III to replace him. He described his plans as a retirement rather than resignation, but suggested the effect would be immediate.

"My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now. This too shall pass,” Conyers said on Mildred Gaddis’s Detroit radio show. “My legacy will continue through my children."

Conyers faced mounting pressure to resign, after several Michigan Democrats and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called on him to resign last week. The allegations against Conyers first broke in late November with a report from Buzzfeed that outlined how he used federal funds to secretly settle a sexual harassment claim. Since the initial report, several more women have come forward with accusations.

Conyers has repeatedly denied the accusations and maintained this stance during his announcement Tuesday morning.

“They're not accurate, they're not true and they're something I can't explain where they came from."

Monday, supporters of Conyers rallied in Detroit, calling for due process and encouraging him not to resign. According to the Detroit Free Press, supporters at the rally compared Conyer’s situation with other prominent politicians, like Sen. Al Franken, Senate candidate Roy Moore and President Donald Trump, who faced sexual harassment or assault allegations and have not faced the same pressure to step down.

“We have one commonality today and it is called due process," said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, according to the Free Press. "Why is it that John Conyers is the only individual to be denied due process? It is apparent that if we’re going to raise this unholy and unlawful guillotine, calling for the head of John Conyers, then in fairness we must begin with the president of the United States. Mr. Trump currently has 15 women who have accused him of sexual harassment. He has told the world and embarrassed the nation by telling how he treats women."

Following Conyer’s announcement, many members of campus have reiterated the importance of a zero tolerance perspective towards sexual misconduct.
 
Public policy senior, Rowan Conybeare, chair of the University of Michigan’s chapter of College Democrats called for the campus to support Conyers’ decision.
“We support the decision for Rep. Conyers to step down,” Conybeare said. “There should be no place or tolerance for this kind of behavior  in any capacity.”
 
Engineering sophomore Lincoln Merrill, publicity chair of the University’s chapter of College Republicans agreed, saying even if Conyers decided to stay in office, his focus would be clouded by distractions.
 
“I think it's a fantastic decision for congressman Conyers to resign given all the distractions he faces in the house, Merrill said. “It will be interesting to see how the special election plays out.”
 
Anne Huhman, Associate Director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, said the more attention given to sexual misconduct, the more overwhelming media coverage could be to survivors. With Conyers stepping down and out of the spotlight, this could aid that. She urged people to keep in mind how rare false sexual assault accusations are. 
 
“For some, seeing this issue in the media daily could feel overwhelming,” Huhman said. “For others it could feel empowering or inspiring to see the heightened awareness and increased dialogue, and so many survivors coming forward to share their stories.”