(DETROIT) — Currently facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment, veteran Congressman John Conyers, D-Mich., announced he is retiring on Tuesday.
Conyers, 88, confirmed the news on the Mildred Gaddis radio show, calling in from a hospital in Detroit recovering for a stress-related illness.
“I am retiring today, and I want everyone to know how much I appreciate the support, the incredible, undiminished support I’ve received across the years,” Conyers said.
Conyers’ attorney, Arnold Reed, confirmed to ABC News that the lawmaker meant retiring effective immediately.
Conyers said his legacy will not be affected. He has denied any sexual misconduct.
“My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now,” he said. “This, too, shall pass. I want you to know that my legacy will continue through my children.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D- Texas, read a statement from Conyers on the House floor after his radio interview that he’d notified House Speaker Paul Ryan, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder of his retirement.
“Given the totality of the circumstance, of not being afforded the right of due process in conjunction with current health conditions, and to preserve my legacy and good name, I’m retiring. I hope my retirement will be viewed in the larger perspective of my record of service as I enter a new chapter,” Lee said the statement read.
The veteran lawmaker said that he is also endorsing his son, John Conyers III, to fill his seat.
Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives and a civil rights icon, is the first high-profile national political figure to fall in this wave of public sexual harassment allegations to sweep the country. The congressman was the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee before he stepped down last week.
Conyers, who has been in the House since 1965, is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
A dozen House Democrats have called on the representative to step down as Congress looks into sexual misconduct allegations levied against him. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said he should resign, calling the allegations against him “serious, disappointing and very credible.”
Last week, his attorney, Arnold Reed, said the congressman refused to be “forced out of office.”
At least five women have accused Conyers of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching.
Elisa Grubbs, a former staffer for Conyers from 2001 to 2013, alleged in an affidavit dated Dec. 3 released by her lawyer Monday that Conyers “inappropriately touched” her in church and personally witnessed Conyers sexually harassing other female staffers. Grubbs also accuses Conyers of “regularly” undressing in front of his staff.
The first allegation came to light after BuzzFeed News reported on Nov. 20 that Conyers’ office paid a female aide over $27,000 to quietly settle a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015. The woman later identified herself as Marion Brown on NBC’s Today Show.
Conyers acknowledged that his office settled a harassment complaint involving a former staffer, but denies the allegations against him.
A former scheduler alleged she suffered unwanted touching “repeated and daily” in 2015 and 2016, according to Buzzfeed, which first obtained the court documents. Buzzfeed did not include her name in their initial Nov. 21 report on the suit but reported that she voluntarily abandoned the case after the court denied her request to keep the case under seal.
Last week, another former staffer, Deanna Maher, accused John Conyers of making unwanted sexual advances toward her in the 1990s. Maher alleged that he touched her inappropriately on at least three occasions, including once in 1999 when he allegedly placed his hands underneath her dress.
Separately, Melanie Sloan, a lawyer who worked with Conyers on the Judiciary Committee, accused him of being “increasingly abusive” to her, behavior she said wasn’t “sexual harassment” but “sexual discrimination.”
The House Ethics Committee announced this month that it would investigate claims of sexual harassment and age discrimination involving the congressman’s staff. Conyers, who has denied those allegations, said he would cooperate with the probe.
Ian Conyers, 29, the grandson of Rep. Conyers’ brother, confirmed the news of John Conyers’ retirement by phone with ABC News early Tuesday. Ian Conyers, a Michigan state senator, said that he would also seek his granduncle’s seat. The New York Times was first to report on this.
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