Michigan Rep. John Conyers on Sunday stepped aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, but again denied recent allegations of sexual and inappropriate conduct.
“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,” Conyers said in a statement.
The 88-year-old Conyers, starting last week, was hit with several allegations of misconduct while in Congress that are now being investigated by the House Ethics Committee.
The news website BuzzFeed reported Monday that Conyers' office paid a woman more than $27,000 under a confidentiality agreement to settle a complaint in 2015 that she was fired from his Washington staff because she rejected his sexual advances.
The ethics committee announced the following day that it had begun an investigation into Conyers, after receiving allegations of sexual harassment and age discrimination involving staff members and about the congressman using "official resources for impermissible personal purposes."
And later in the week, Melanie Sloan, a lawyer who worked with Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee, said she was called into the long-serving congressman's office to discuss an issue and found him “walking around in his underwear.”
I deny these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger.
Sloan worked on the committee in the 1990s, but it was not clear when the alleged incident occurred. She also claims Conyers often screamed at her, fired and re-hired her, criticized her for not wearing stockings and once even ordered her to baby-sit one of his children.
“I deny [all of] these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger,” Conyers, the long-serving active House member, also said in his statement Sunday. “I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family.”
He also said he wanted to remain the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee “but I have come to believe that my presence as ranking member … 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.”
The blogger to whom Conyers seems to be referring is President Trump supporter Mike Cernovich.
Cernovich reportedly gave BuzzFeed the settlement documents, which the news outlet says it independently verified.
Cernovich purportedly said in a series of recent but now-deleted tweets that he would pay $10,000 for details of the settlements.
After Conyers’ announcement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said : “Zero tolerance means consequences. As a woman and mother of four daughters, I particularly take any accusation of sexual harassment very seriously.
"Any credible accusation must be reviewed by the Ethics Committee expeditiously. We are at a watershed moment on this issue, and no matter how great an individual’s legacy, it is not a license for harassment. I commend the brave women coming forward.”
Before the announcement, Pelosi, the House’s top Democrat, called Conyers an American “icon,” but reserved judgment about recent sexual allegations against the congressman until the chamber’s Ethics Committee completes its review.
“John Conyers is an icon in our country,” she told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “He has done a great deal to protect women."
Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.