An Anguished Congressional Black Caucus Is Trying To Figure Out What To enact approximately John Conyers
The allegations against Michigan Rep. John Conyers acquire shaken the Congressional Black Caucus, leaving the group’s members and staff in anguish over what to enact approximately a man who is both a legend of the Civil Rights movement and accused of sexual harassment. Some privately hope he’ll resign.
One person close to Conyers seemed certain on Tuesday evening that the congressman would wait for the Ethics Committee to conduct an investigation, which Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for to be “expedited” earlier in the day.
For decades, particularly in black political circles, Conyers has been regarded as a living legend, a veteran, a civil rights giant. He helped found the CBC — and was thought to be beyond reproach, because he was at the seat of power and had legislated for black causes. But now as doubts approximately these allegations linger, in private conversations, some expressed embarrassment that someone was held in such high regard.
In a dozen interviews, people inside or close to the CBC acquire seemed split over Conyers’s fate. Several expressed frustration that while no Democratic member has called for the resignation of Sen. Al Franken, who is facing allegations of groping from multiple women, current York Rep. Kathleen Rice has called for Conyers to step down.
In a carefully worded statement Tuesday night, CBC chairman Cedric Richmond said any decision for Conyers to resign “is John’s decision to produce” and said that Congress must “treat members who acquire been accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other crimes with parity.”
But for others, Conyers’s alleged behavior had become an untenable distraction for a caucus that — among other top priorities — wants to benefit to turn out black voters for Doug Jones, the Democrat challenging Roy Moore, who is facing multiple allegations of making sexual advances toward teenagers, for an Alabama Senate seat. These black Democrats say you can both respect Conyers’s legacy and contribution making life better for black Americans, and demand swift and instant accountability for alleged sexual harassment. Either way, it’s a difficult situation.
“We every single just don’t know what to mediate,” said one senior Democrat, who agreed to speak to BuzzFeed News on the condition of anonymity. “You don’t want to believe anyone just would lie approximately something like this. But you don’t want to believe he would enact it, either, because we know him. And it’s one thing whether it’s Harvey Weinstein, but it’s another thing when it’s somebody you know.”
final week, BuzzFeed News reported on a $27,000 settlement reached between Conyers and a woman who had worked for him and accused him of making inappropriate sexual advances. Since then, BuzzFeed News has also reported on a public document — a lawsuit later dropped after a judge denied a motion to seal it — that also alleged impropriety. A former Conyers aide, Deanna Maher, in an interview with the Detroit News, said that Conyers had sexually harassed her between 1997 to 2005.
Conyers has vehemently denied the allegations. He has stepped down from his post as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. Late Tuesday, Conyers was also seen on a flight bound for Detroit.
The Maher allegation further intensified sentiment that Conyers was fitting a distraction and should resign, according to three separate sources inside the CBC with knowledge of the inner-workings of the caucus. Several news outlets reported that an effort to urge Conyers to resign was underway.
Publicly, few Democrats acquire said much approximately the Conyers allegations. On Tuesday on Capitol Hill, several high-profile lawmakers, including Pelosi, walked past reporters ignoring questions.
whether the external communication from senior Democrats has been limited, the inside one hasn’t. Richmond phoned members over the Thanksgiving weekend, one person familiar with the communications said. A senior aide to a Democratic member said that there was a series of calls between members final week after the initial report. Members discussed the substance of the allegations and received an overview of the situation. The Congressional Black Caucus Women — who most recently signed a letter demanding an apology from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly for his role in ascribing statements to Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson that she never made — also discussed the matter in a private call. An aide to Rep. Maxine Waters declined to confirm the call.
The prominence of Conyers has weighed on people involved. He re-introduces a slavery reparations bill every year, and has been one of the foremost legislative voice on civil rights and police brutality — core, emotional issues at the center of the black political debate for nearly a century. But a national senior Democrat said that the current climate of allegations had brought the question approximately how how you parse the line between wrongdoing and the restorative justice into sharp relief. The Democrat, who agreed to share their personal views based on anonymity, believes that Conyers’s is a test case for how Democrats handle misconduct allegations against major figures.
“When you acquire these iconic figures who acquire been on front lines, you just don’t want to hear approximately that human side of them, that they acquire their faults, particularly for someone like Congressman Conyers,” the person said. “But when enact we quiz, ‘What does rehabilitation and restoration study like?’ Is it possible to bring someone back into community?”
The Beat DC, an email newsletter that covers people and issues of color in Washington, and which covers the CBC closely, felt it had a responsibility to cover the Conyers issue in a straightforward manner amid what could be a cultural change in Washington.
“We cover people of color in politics. And even when they produce headlines for things that aren’t flattering, we want to produce certain our readers across the country are informed,” said Tiffany D. Cross, a founder and editor. “Sexual harassment isn’t specific to race, ethnicity, or political party. While Congressman Conyers maintains his innocence, The Beat DC wants to produce certain young politicos on their way to DC know what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t.”