In the face of mounting allegations of sexual harassment, the longest-serving member of Congress, John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), abruptly resigned on Tuesday, ending a career that has spanned 52 years.
Conyers, 88, who represented the Detroit area, relented to growing pressure from Democratic leaders and stepped aside as an increasing number of female former aides accused him of mistreatment and undesired advances. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The revered politician, and a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, announced his retirement from a hospital in Detroit where he continues to recover from stress.
He has endorsed his son, John Conyers III to replace him. Another Conyers family member, a nephew, has already declared his intention to run for the seat, setting up a potential interfamily showdown.
Speaking on the harassment allegations, Conyers said his legacy “can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through.”
“This too shall pass,” he shared during a local radio station interview on Tuesday. “My legacy will continue through my children.”
When Conyers announced his retirement and for his son to replace him, a slew of citizens took to social media to express their views on the long-term legislator and civil rights icon.
“Trump leads Republicans in circling the wagons in Alabama. Democrats set up circular firing squad in DC. Voters fed up,” Richard Painter, professor at the University of Minnesota and ethics lawyer for former President George W. Bush, said on Twitter.
Keith Boykin, a White House aide to former President Bill Clinton, posted a tweet that listed 16 women who’ve accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct.
Then Boykin published this simple message: “Rep. John Conyers is retiring. Now let’s retire the sexual predator in the White House.”
According to a two-page letter dated Friday, Dec.1, the House Ethics Committee will investigate any alleged violations by members of Congress, officer, or other staff member involved in sexual harassment and employment discrimination.
The letter, addressed to compliance officer Susan Tsui Grudmann, requests all records that involve hearings and decisions on sexual harassment claims.
“The Congressional Accountability Act prohibits harassment and discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, or disability,” according to the letter from committee Chairwoman Susan W. Brooks and ranking member Theodore E. Deutch. “House Rules have longed prohibited discriminatory conduct in employment.”
Conyers, whose retirement became effective immediately on Tuesday, said in a letter to Congress that was read on the House floor by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), that his 53 years on Capitol Hill served as witness to a profound evolution in civil rights that led to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and other landmark reforms.
“I’ve been in the forefront of the civil rights movement. I’ve been a champion of justice for the oppressed and the disenfranchised.” Conyers wrote. “I never wavered in my commitment to justice and democracy. I am proud to have been part of that rich history.”
“I have been privileged to be a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and to represent the United States Congress by being dean,” he continued, adding that “I passed, as indicated, the law dealing with the Martin Luther King holiday, the Violence Against Women Act, the Hate Crimes Act, the U.S.A. Freedom and the extension of the Voting Rights Act.”
“I have led the fight against mandatory minimums, hoping to reverse the devastating incarceration rates for African Americans and poor people. I have tried to pass a universal health care law. It has been an honor and a privilege of my life to represent the people of Michigan in the House of Representatives, but that responsibility will now fall to my colleagues and my successor. They have my deepest support and prayers.”
In closing, Conyers’ letter simply stated: “Jobs, justice and peace.”
WI staff writer William J. Ford and WI contributing writer Dorothy Rowley contributed to this report.