"My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now," a defeated but nonetheless defiant John Conyers said on The Mildred Gaddis Show on Detroit's WPZR-FM. "This too shall pass...my legacy will continue through my children."
Conyers offered these remarks as he announced that he will resign from the seat he has held for more than 50 years. For Conyers, a civil rights icon and the longest-serving active member of Congress, his retirement plans are not of his own volition, but in response to an ever growing chorus that he leave in light of accusations of sexual harassment.
Regardless of his choice of words, it is indeed a stain on his career — one that mere words will not overshadow.
In late November, Buzzfeed News reported that Conyers settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who claims that she was fired for turning down his “sexual advances. Obtaining documents from the complaint, which included multiple affidavits signed and notarized, Conyers was accused of repeatedly making sexual advances to female staff members that included "requests for sex acts, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public."
Conyers confirmed the settlement, but denied the allegations. Marion Brown, who accepted the settlement with Conyers, broke her confidentiality agreement and appeared on the Today show with her attorney, Lisa Bloom, to discuss Conyers' accused conduct. Brown did so because she felt Conyers called her a "liar."
"Some of the things that he did were — it was sexual harassment, violating my body, propositioning me, inviting me to hotels with the guys discussing business and then proposition me for sex," Brown explained. "He's just violated my body. He has touched me in different ways and it was very uncomfortable and very unprofessional. "
On Monday, another former staffer stepped forward to accused the now former congressman of sexual harassment by way of an affidavit released by a lawyer. Elisa Grubbs, who says she worked in Conyers’ office from approximately 2001 to 2013, alleges that Conyers "inappropriately touched" her during her time there. In one incident, she claims that Conyers slid his hand up her skirt and rubbed her thighs as the two sat next to each other in the front row of a church.
Conyers told Gaddis, "I am retiring today and I want everyone to know how much I appreciate the...incredible, undiminished support I’ve received across the years from my supporters, not only from my district but across the country as well." A week prior, another former staffer, a top communications aide, claimed that "most of us" had seen Conyers in his underwear.
I understand the complaints of double standards some have made recently. As in, why must Conyers leave when Sen. Al Franken remains. However, Conyers has a settlement on record for the acts in which he is accused of committing as a congressman. Franken will be investigated and if he is found to have violated women as a senator, he, too, should be exiled from the senate. Even so, as more women accuse him of groping them, Franken is fighting for his political career all the same. If he goes, oh well. Still, while I am typically inclined to defend Black people, I don't care to extend such energy towards a man like John Conyers. As much as I loathe double standards, I hate men — regardless of their race — who prey on women much more.
Let's rid ourselves of the whole lot of them.
We should all be grateful to his contributions, but being an icon does not shield you from being a predator. While speaking to radio personality Mildred Gaddis, Conyers said that these allegations are "not accurate, they're not true and they're something I can't explain where they came from." They come from women who no longer live in fear of the power men like John Conyers yield.
Before he decided to take to retire amid calls from his Democratic colleagues — which, for some like Nancy Pelosi, should have come sooner — Conyers echoed talk of his legacy on Twitter.
He is wrapped up in his own legend. If John Conyers was so worried about folks diminishing his legacy, he should have kept his dick in his pants and treated women staff members with the respect they deserved. Conyers may be leaving Congress, but consider the way in which he did. There is no acknowledgement of the pain he caused these women. There is no reasonable explanation for why he settled allegations of sexual harassment that leads one to conclude that they were made without merit.
In fact, not only does Conyers brush them aside, he uses the opportunity not to think of the women, but to be prop up his son and endorse him for the seat he held. How tacky. How smug. How entitled. It was going to end messy for Conyers no matter what, but he could have tried to be better. Alas, he doesn't care and therein lies the problem.
One of Conyers' supporters, Wayne County commissioner Martha Scott, spoke fondly about her memories of Conyers before he became a congressman and her memories of the Civil Rights era in the South. "It's people like Congressman Conyers who paved the way for all of us," she said.
Yes, but he didn't make it safe for all of us. That is why he needs to resign, enjoy his sizable retirement package, and go. Thank you for your service, John Conyers, but doing a lot of good doesn't excuse the bad. It's a shame he doesn't seem to see that, but here's hoping his replacement will.