Our national panic regarding sexual harassment of women by powerful men has claimed its first scalp in the nation’s capital. As of now, Minnesota Democrat Al Franken is staying in the Senate, some embarrassing incidents notwithstanding, while Alabama Republican Roy Moore may get there yet, despite multiple reports of his dalliances with underage girls. Of course, the grabber-in-chief in the White House shows no signs of going anywhere either, at least until even worse videotapes appear.
Michigan Democrat John Conyers, however, has taken a direct hit and has stepped down from his House leadership roles, including as the ranking member of the powerful Judiciary Committee, in the wake of press reports which depict him as a serial harasser and worse. This is a stunning fall for the 27-term Congressman, at present the House of Representatives’ longest-serving member, who has been prominent on his party’s left wing for more than a half-century.
In other words, the 88-year-old Conyers is no average member of Congress. The results of the House Ethics Committee investigation of his relations with female staffers are not yet in, and let it be said that all Americans are innocent until proven guilty. However, the allegations against Conyers, if true, portray the esteemed veteran of the civil rights movement in a troubling light. For now, he’s professing his innocence and standing his ground, indicating he has no intention of resigning from the House, where he has served since 1965.
His defenders cite that the elderly Conyers grew up in a profoundly different age, and that he has not adapted to current sensitivities about sexual matters. That said, it probably didn’t help him that yesterday Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, brushed off allegations against Conyers with the statement that he “is an icon in our country.” The implication that there are different rules for icons didn’t sit well with some Americans—after all, Bill Cosby was a national icon too, until recently—and Pelosi’s soundbite seems certain to feature in Republican ads next year in advance of the midterm election.
Read the rest at The Observer …