Facing multiple accusations of sexual harassment, John Conyers — the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives — is stepping down.
Conyers announced on Tuesday that he will not run for a 28th term in Congress next year and is retiring immediately, citing his health and not the growing list of women who have come forward with claims of sexual misconduct.
Conyers told Mildred Gaddis, a Detroit-based radio host, that he is endorsing his son, John Conyers III, to replace him in Congress.
“I am retiring today,” the 88-year-old said during a phone interview from his hospital bed. “My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now. This too shall pass.”
Last week, Conyers’ attorney, Arnold Reed, said the congressman refused to be “forced out of office” amid calls for his resignation.
The Michigan Democrat’s decision comes after it was reported last month that Conyers’ office paid a former aide more than $ 27,000 to settle a wrongful dismissal complaint.
Conyers, however, has denied the claims, saying he hasn’t harassed anyone and that the $ 27,000 payment to former staffer Marion Brown — who broke a nondisclosure agreement by speaking publicly last week — was a severance payment, not an admission he did anything wrong.
Another former staffer came forward last week to accuse Conyers of groping her and making other unwanted advances. A third spoke out on Monday, saying that the congressman groped her during a church service.
A defiant Conyers refused to address the allegations on Tuesday.
“We take this in stride,” he said. “Look, this goes with the issue of politics, the game of politics, which we’re in.”
The House ethics committee is investigating the allegations, a probe that will likely continue.
The ethics panel retains jurisdiction over Conyers as long as the 27-term Democrat remains in Congress, and a senior legislative aide says the normal course would be for the ethics inquiry to continue.
The lawmaker, first elected to the House in 1964, stepped aside as the top Democrat on the House judiciary committee after being hospitalized last week.
He is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Conyers has stood his ground against the allegations as several of his colleagues called for him to step down.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said he should resign, calling the allegations against him “serious, disappointing and very credible.”
Several high-profile lawmakers and other powerful men in media and other industries have been outed as accused sexual predators in recent months.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), has been accused of groping four women. Franken, 66, has publicly apologized.
GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore is facing several accusations of seeking sexual relationships with teens when he was in his 30s.
Conyers did not address allegations against any other lawmakers.
“We take what happens and we deal with it. We pass on, and we move on, trying to make as much as we can of this tremendous opportunity that’s been given to me,” he said.
Conyers’ announcement came hours after a relative said the Congressman’s doctor “advised him that the rigor of another campaign would be too much for him, just in terms of his health.”
Ian Conyers, 29, a Michigan state senator, told The New York Times that he planned to run for the seat as well.