One of the women accusing the powerful Democratic Rep. John Conyers of sexual harassment claimed to Fox News on Wednesday night that in addition to touching her inappropriately, he also failed to protect her when one of his top staffers assaulted her.
Deanna Maher, 77, has accused Conyers, D-Mich., of engaging in three inappropriate incidents in the late 1990s. She said the first was in 1997 when she rejected his offer to share a hotel room and have sex. She added that the others involved unwanted touching in a car in 1998 and unwanted touching of her legs under her dress in 1999.
In an interview on Fox News’ “The Story” with Martha MacCallum, Maher emotionally described the incident with Conyers' high-level staffer as “pretty devastating.” She said it happened in 2001 when she was 61.
She said the unnamed staffer grabbed her, forced her against a wall and “stuck his tongue down my throat at my age.”
“I can’t tell you how ashamed I felt,” she said. “Dirty.”
Afterwards, Maher, a former deputy chief of staff for Conyers, claimed the congressman gave her no help whatsoever. “I got no protection afterwards because Congressman Conyers covered that whole thing up.”
She also noted that Conyers was a powerful member of the Judiciary Committee and that it controlled funding for the Department of Justice.
“Do you realize that’s all the jobs and all the budgets,” she said to MacCallum. “And that’s what he controlled. So all he has to do is pick up a phone call and destroy someone’s life.”
When the initial incidents with Conyers allegedly took place, Maher said she didn’t report them but was “appalled,” “shocked” and “devastated,” especially since she said they happened on government property with federal law enforcement nearby.
Maher told MacCallum that she was sharing her experiences for the young women entering the workforce on the Hill, saying that when these encounters happened to her she was a mother and a grandmother and “not any young chicken.”
“I’m really trying to stand up for them because they are vulnerable,” she said. “It’s very exciting and glamorous to be part of Capitol Hill, congressional hearings and this is where they are shooting ducks.”
Fox News reached out to Conyers' office and did not get an immediate response.
Conyers surrendered his post as the House Judiciary Committee's top Democrat after a report that he'd quietly settled a complaint by a former aide who said he'd harassed her. Conyers' attorney, Arnold Reed, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the lawmaker has no plans to leave Congress and will fight the accusations against him "tooth and nail."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.