DETROIT — U.S. Rep. John Conyers — beset with allegations of sexual harassment by former staff members — announced his retirement Tuesday, bringing to an end a more than five-decade run in the House.
The 88-year-old Conyers made the announcement while speaking with Detroit radio talk show host Mildred Gaddis. Conyers also endorsed his son, John Conyers III, to replace him in office.
“I’m in the process of putting my retirement plans together,” he said from a hospital. “I am retiring today.”
Shadawn Reddick-Smith, Conyers’ spokeswoman, confirmed that the retirement was effective Tuesday.
“My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now,” Conyers said. “This too shall pass. My legacy will continue through my children.”
Michigan state Sen. Ian Conyers, a grandson of John Conyers’ brother, told The New York Times for a story Tuesday that he plans to run for the 13th District congressional seat.
John Conyers, who was first elected in 1964, easily won re-election last year in the heavily Democratic district. But following the mounting allegations of sexual harassment, he has faced growing calls to resign from colleagues in the House, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
John Conyers’ attorney, Arnold Reed, has said Conyers’ health would be the paramount consideration in whether he decides to step down from his House seat. He has already stepped aside from his position as ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who replaced Conyers as acting Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, said he was saddened by news of the retirement of his “friend and mentor. But Nadler underlined in a statement that “there can be no tolerance for behaviour that subjects women to the kind of conduct that has been alleged.”
The House Ethics Committee has been reviewing the harassment allegations against Conyers.
On Monday, a woman who said she worked for him for more than a decade said he slid his hand up her skirt and rubbed her thighs while she was sitting next to him in the front row of a church.
Elisa Grubbs made the allegation in an affidavit released late Monday by her attorney, Lisa Bloom. Grubbs is the cousin of another accuser, Marion Brown, who reached a confidential settlement with Conyers over sexual harassment allegations, but broke the confidentiality agreement to speak publicly last week.
Bloom posted Grubbs’ affidavit on Twitter and confirmed to The Associated Press that it was genuine.
Grubbs’ affidavit says that she worked for Conyers in various roles from approximately 2001 to about 2013.
“Rep. Conyers slid his hand up my skirt and rubbed my thighs while I was sitting next to him in the front row of a church,” Grubbs said. “I was startled and sprang to my feet and exclaimed, ‘He just ran his hand up my thigh!’ Other staffers witnessed the event.”
She also said that she saw Conyers touching and stroking the legs and buttocks of Brown and other female staffers on “multiple occasions.”
Grubbs said witnessing such harassment “was a regular part of life while working in the office of Rep. Conyers.”
One time when Grubbs was at Conyers home, she said he came out of the bathroom naked when he knew she was in the room.
“This is about much more than one Congressman,” Bloom told The AP in an email after Conyers announced his retirement. “Systemic change is urgently needed so no other women have to endure the retaliation, secrecy and delays my client Marion Brown and others experienced.”
Reed told the Detroit Free Press that the allegations by Grubbs are “another instance of tomfoolery from the mouth of Harvey Weinstein’s attorney.” Bloom previously represented Hollywood executive Weinstein, who is accused of sexual misconduct by a number of women. She quit Weinstein’s team after the allegations became public and now represents sexual harassment victims.
Deanna Maher, who ran a Michigan office for Conyers from 1997 to 2005, also accused Conyers of sexual misconduct.
A former scheduler also alleged sexual harassment, retaliation and a hostile work environment in a February 2017 proposed complaint, but took no further action after a judge refused to file it under seal.