Under pressure, Rep. Conyers ‘retiring today’
Rep. John Conyers, under intense pressure from fellow Democrats to resign amid allegations that he sexually harassed former employees, announces that he will leave Congress immediately and endorses his son to succeed him.
WASHINGTON — Rep. John Conyers Jr., under intense pressure to resign amid multiplying allegations that he sexually harassed former employees, announced Tuesday that he will leave Congress immediately, and he endorsed his son, John Conyers III, to succeed him.
Conyers, 88, the “dean” of the House and the longest-serving African-American in history, acquiesced to weeks of pressure from fellow Democrats, but by trying to keep his Detroit-area seat in the family, he touched off a family feud between his 27-yearold son and his great-nephew, Ian Conyers, a state senator from Michigan who also plans to run in a special House election.
In a phone interview, Ian Conyers said his great-uncle had encouraged him to run for the seat days before deciding to step down. Now the two younger Conyers will most likely face off in what may become a battle over the legacy of John Conyers, D-Mich., considered an icon to many black people.
“I said, ‘Sir, if you decide that you’re going to retire, give me a heads-up because I’m going to run for your seat and keep doing the work that you have been up to,’ ” Ian Conyers said. “He said, ‘Absolutely. You go for it. Run.’ ”
Conyers held out for weeks after BuzzFeed News published documents last month that showed he had settled a sexual harassment case with an employee who said she was fired after refusing his advances.
But by Tuesday morning, he had given in.
“I am retiring today,” he told “The Mildred Gaddis Show,” a local radio program, from a hospital in Michigan. “I am in the process of putting together my retirement plans.”
He continued to deny that he had harassed former employees and said he did not know where those allegations came from.
On Tuesday morning, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, also announced Conyers’ retirement on the House floor, saying Conyers had informed the House speaker, Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the minority leader.
“I think the legacy of John Conyers will speak for itself,” Lee said later in an interview. “His last words were that he didn’t want to be a distraction and that he will continue to fight for jobs, justice and peace.”
She added that Conyers’ years of working on issues like voting rights and mass incarceration “cannot be erased.”
Conyers tried to make the same case as he endorsed his son.” My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we are going through now,” he said during the radio interview. “This, too, shall pass. My legacy will continue through my children.”
John Conyers III, who has not held elected office before, was cited on suspicion of speeding in his father’s congressional vehicle in 2010, according to The Detroit Free Press.
His father reimbursed the Treasury Department more than $5,600 for the commandeering of a government vehicle for personal use. The younger Conyers also released a rap song, “Rich Glorious,” and describes himself as “a partner at Detroit’s first minority run hedge fund.”
“I think the legacy of John Conyers will speak for itself. His last words were that he didn’t want to be a distraction and that he will continue to fight for jobs, justice and peace.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston
John Conyers, 88, represents the Detroit area.