“His constant stream of abuse was difficult to handle.”
Lawyer Melanie Sloan has come forward with inappropriate behavior that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) used towards her, which included verbal abuse and comments about her appearance. This happened when she worked as a Democratic counsel for the House Judiciary Committee in the 1990s, which Conyers still serves on as ranking member. From The Detroit Free Press:
She said he criticized her for not wearing stockings on at least one occasion. On another, she said he ordered her backstage from a committee field hearing on crime she had organized in New York City to babysit one of his children. Sloan made clear that she did not feel she had ever been sexually harassed, but that she felt “mistreated by this guy.”
“I’m no shrinking violet,” said Sloan, who went on to become the executive director for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and later to open Triumph Strategy, a public affairs firm specializing in crisis response. “His constant stream of abuse was difficult to handle and it was certainly damaging to my self-respect and self-esteem.”
“It made me increasingly anxious and depressed about going to work every day. And there was no way to fix it. There was no mechanism I could use, no person I could go to,” she said.
Sloan said she told people, including “high-ranking member of then-House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt’s staff,” about the behavior. The people she told said that “nothing could be done” and one person even said rumors were going around that she was “‘mentally unstable’ for making the claims.”
Sloan did not witness any of the inappropriate behavior by Conyers that former staff have accused him of. But remember she only worked on the committee, not for the congressman. However, something did happen in his office:
But she said that on one occasion, she was called to Conyers’ office in the Rayburn House Office building for a meeting and, when she got there, he was in his underwear.
“He was just walking around in his office, not dressed,” she said. “He wasn’t doing it to hit on me. It was more like he could do what he wanted. I was quite shocked by it and left quickly.”
At first, Sloan wanted to make these claims anonymously, but changed her mind:
“Then I thought, ‘This is what’s wrong in Washington. No one will ever say anything publicly,’ ” she said, noting the widespread rumors of misconduct across the nation’s capital and a system that encourages people who are abused to stay quiet for fear of hurting their careers by not appearing loyal to people in power.
Sloan said she also decided to talk because some of what happened to her was consistent with the allegations against Conyers, specifically that he asked members of his staff — whose salaries are paid by taxpayers — to babysit. In 2003, the Free Press first reported on similar complaints among other employees in Conyers’ office. A follow-up Ethics Committee report was ultimately issued with Conyers — who continued to deny the accusations — eventually reaching a deal to ensure staff knew where their responsibilities began and ended.
On Tuesday, BuzzFeed published an explosive article about how Conyers settled a wrongful dismissal claim with a former female employee who said he fired her because she refused his sexual advances. Other employees said he sexually harassed them and had them fly in women that he was having affairs with using taxpayer money.
Through his lawyer Arnold Reed, Conyers has denied that he sexually harassed anyone. He did admit to settling the wrongful dismissal claim.
The House Ethics Committee has decided to investigate the claims against Conyers. He said he will cooperate with the investigation.
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) has called on Conyers to resign. From The Hill:
“What I am voicing publicly is what every single private citizen is saying across America,” Rice said on CNN. “Why are the rules for politicians in Washington different than they are for everyone else?”
She compared the multiple sexual harassment allegations against Conyers to the fallout after prominent men in Hollywood and the media were accused of sexual misconduct. Notable men such as Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK and Mark Halperin have all been booted from their companies and networks.
Rice advocated Conyers resigning rather than undergoing an ethics investigation as other other lawmakers have recommended, which she said will “take forever to come up with a conclusion.”
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