The most widely read print and digital media outlet in Michigan has called for hometown Rep. John Conyers Jr. to resign.
“John Conyers Jr. must go — after 53 years in Congress, after a stellar career of fighting for equality, after contributing so much to southeast Michigan and the nation,” the Detroit Free Press editorialized Tuesday.
The Detroit-based Democrat first took his seat in Congress during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency smack in the middle of the civil rights era in 1965. He is the longest-serving among active federal lawmakers.
Conyers, 88, is the latest member of Congress to fall under public scrutiny for sexual misbehavior after documents from a 2015 settlement with a former staffer over sexual harassment complaints surfaced this week.
The documents, which include four signed affidavits, were initially obtained by BuzzFeed News.
Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, used congressional funds and resources to fly his mistresses into Washington; made sexual advances on women in his office; and would become angry when one of his female staffers brought her husband around, the documents from multiple former employees allege.
The former staffer was paid a roughly $27,000 settlement drawn from Conyers’ congressional office budget — not the Office of Congressional Compliance fund set aside for congressional settlements.
After initially denying he settled with any current or former staff members, Conyers admitted Tuesday he had reached a monetary agreement with a former staff member. He said the case was resolved “with an express denial of liability.”
The Free Press editorial suggested the settlement payment was “hush money” and that Conyers’ case was the embodiment of a pervasive problem with sexual harassment in Congress.
“In the current climate of revelations about powerful men abusing their positions and committing horrific acts of harassment, abuse or assault on women, those allegations should be enough to spur a dedicated congressional inquiry,” the Free Press editorial board wrote.
Conyers has said he will cooperate fully with an ethics committee investigation launched Tuesday.
“Without a doubt, Congress has a real problem, and one that the American people deserve to see resolved,” the Free Press editorial said.
“It’s a tragic end to [Conyers’] public career. But it’s … a needed warning to other members of Congress that this can never be tolerated.”