House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that fellow Democrat and Michigan Rep. John Conyers is 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,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “He has done a great deal to protect women."
The 88-year-old Conyers, the long-serving active House member, now faces at least two sexual misconduct allegations.
Leaders of the House Ethics Committee announced Tuesday that the panel 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."
The announcement followed the news website BuzzFeed reporting 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.
Conyers has so far denied the allegations and said he would fully cooperate in the probe, which was announced before another woman accused him of inappropriate behavior.
Melanie Sloan, a lawyer who worked with Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee, said late last week that she was called into the long-serving congressman's office to discuss an issue and found him “walking around in his underwear.”
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.
“We are strengthened by due process,” Pelosi said Sunday about the ethics investigation. “Just because someone is accused … . He has done a great deal to protect women."
She also declined to say whether she believes Conyers’ accusers, saying the veracity of their allegations “is for the Ethics Committee to review.”
Pelosi, the top House Democrat, also declined to say whether Conyers, chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, should resign.
“I believe he understands what's at stake here,” she said. “He will do the right thing."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.