(WJBK) - Michigan Rep. John Conyers says he is stepping aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee amid a congressional investigation into allegations he sexually harassed female staff members.
In a statement Sunday, Conyers says he denies the allegations and would like to keep his leadership role on the panel. But he says he "cannot in good conscience" allow the charges to be an undue distraction to his House colleagues while the investigation is continuing.
The 88-year-old lawmaker indicated he would not resign from Congress and would keep fighting the allegations first made public a week ago that he sexually harassed female staff members.
His sudden announcement came as a scandal-weary Congress prepared to return from its Thanksgiving break, with increasing attention on the issue of sexual misconduct involving multiple men in entertainment, media and politics. Along with Conyers, Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore also are the subject of accusations.
FOX 2's Charlie Langton and Erika Erickson talked about the allegations Sunday on Let It Rip Weekend with Conyers's attorney Arnold Reed, who said Conyers should determine what would best serve his constituents.
The House Ethics Committee is investigating Conyers after receiving allegations of sexual harassment and age discrimination involving staff members as well as using "official resources for impermissible personal purposes."
The statement was made in a series of tweets which read in full:
After careful consideration and in light of the attention drawn by recent allegations made against me, I have notified the Democratic Leader of my request to step aside as Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee during the investigation of these matters.
I deny these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger. I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics.
To be clear, I would like very much to remain as Ranking Member. There is still much work to be done on core concerns like securing civil rights, enacting meaningful criminal justice reform, and protecting access to the ballot box.
These challenges could not be more pressing in the face of an Administration that cares little for the rule of law and a President whose actions and conduct cheapens our discourse every day.
But I have come to believe that my presence as Ranking Member on the Committee would not serve these efforts while the Ethics Committee investigation is pending.
I cannot in good conscience allow these charges to undermine my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus, and my friends on both sides of the aisle in the Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives.
I am proud and fortunate to be part of a legacy of more than 50 years of fighting for civil rights and making our country more equitable and just.
I'll never allow that legacy - a legacy I owe to my father John Conyers, Sr., who integrated labor unions, or my two amazing sons John III & Carl and my loving wife Monica, and the extraordinary people of Detroit - to be cast aside, or these causes to be in any way diminished.
I am grateful to my colleagues who have called for due process before weighing judgment. I would urge them to continue to do so for any Member accused of wrongdoing. Basic fairness requires no less.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is defending Democratic Rep. John Conyers as an "icon" for women's rights and declining to say whether the longtime lawmaker should resign over allegations that he sexually harassed female staff members.
Pelosi insists that Conyers deserves "due process" and will "do the right thing" after Congress returns from Thanksgiving break on Monday.
Still, she called the accusations against Conyers a "big distraction."