Last Updated Nov 21, 2017 10:34 AM EST
WASHINGTON — Michigan Rep. John Conyers settled a complaint in 2015 from a woman who alleged she was fired from his Washington staff because she rejected his sexual advances, BuzzFeed News reported.
The website reported Monday that Conyers’ office paid the woman over $27,000 to settle the complaint under a confidentiality agreement.
Conyers, who answered the door at his Detroit home Tuesday morning, said he knows nothing about any claims of inappropriate touching and learned of the story just hours earlier.
Referring to allegations of sexual harassment and assault being made against politicians and others, the veteran lawmaker says he’s “been looking at these things with amazement.”
BuzzFeed published affidavits from former staff members who said they had witnessed Conyers touching female staffers inappropriately —rubbing their legs and backs — or requesting sexual favors. One former staffer said one of her duties was “to keep a list of women that I assumed he was having affairs with and call them at his request and, if necessary, have them flown in using Congressional resources.”
BuzzFeed said it received the documents from right-wing activist Mike Cernovich, but independently confirmed their authenticity. Cernovich said he gave the documents to BuzzFeed News because Democrats would “try to discredit the story by attacking the messenger” if he published them himself.
The 88-year-old Conyers is the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee and the longest-serving current member of the House. Calls to Conyers and his office seeking comment were not immediately returned Monday night.
The government has paid more than $17 million in taxpayer money over the last 20 years to resolve claims of sexual harassment, overtime pay disputes and other workplace violations filed by employees of Congress. The Office of Compliance released the numbers amid a wave of revelations of sexual misconduct in the worlds of entertainment, business and politics that made its way to Capitol Hill last week. Two female lawmakers described incidents of sexual harassment, one in explicit detail, and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken apologized to a woman who said he forcibly kissed her and groped her during a 2006 USO tour.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday she was unaware of the settlement by Conyers. “The current process includes the signing of non-disclosure agreements by the parties involved,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced legislation that will provide much-needed transparency on these agreements and make other critical reforms. I strongly support her efforts.”
Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said in a statement Tuesday, “This report is extremely troubling. Last month, I directed the Committee on House Administration to conduct a full review of all policies and procedures related to workplace harassment and discrimination. A Committee hearing last week examining this issue led to a new policy of mandatory training for all members and staff. Additional reforms to the system are under consideration as the committee continues its review. People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination.”
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