U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, on Tuesday denied a BuzzFeed report stating he made sexual advances to staff and that he secretly settled a sexual harassment claim by an employee for more than $27,000 in 2015.
The bombshell allegation was leveled at Conyers late Monday, when Buzzfeed reported that it had gotten copies of affidavits filed by four former employees who said they saw the longest-serving acting member of Congress repeatedly making sexual overtures to women staffers, requesting sexual favors and touching them.
The AP reported that Conyers — who answered the door of his Detroit home Tuesday morning — had “been looking at these things with amazement" and said he learned of the report just hours earlier. Conyers' office has not responded to requests from the Free Press for comment on the accusation.
Buzzfeed's report cited not only the affidavits but its own interview with the former staffer who filed the wrongful dismissal complaint in 2014 alleging she was fired for rebuffing Conyers' repeated sexual advances.
In her complaint to the congressional Office of Compliance, the former staffer said Conyers — who is 88 and has been in the U.S. House since 1965 — asked her for sexual favors and to join him in his hotel room on several occasions. Buzzfeed also said the secret complaint said on one occasion he told her she needed to either touch his penis or find him a woman who could meet his sexual needs.
In other incidents reported by Buzzfeed, the woman accused Conyers of making her work nights, evenings and holiday to keep him company and insisted she stay in his hotel room when they traveled together for a fundraising event.
“Rep. Conyers strongly postulated that the performing of personal service or favors would be looked upon favorably and lead to salary increases or promotions,” the former employee said in the documents.
The employee told Buzzfeed she felt as though she had no choice but to accept the settlement considering a congressional process that involves long periods of waiting, counseling and mediation and the signing of a confidentiality agreement before a claim can move forward.
“I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go,” the former employee told Buzzfeed in a phone interview. The news website kept her name anonymous at her request and because she said she fears retribution.