US politician John Conyers in hospital as ex-aide tells of harassment

US Representative John Conyers was admitted to hospital in Detroit on Thursday as a former aide publicly accused him of sexual harassment, telling NBC's Today show that she was fired for rejecting his advances.

Marion Brown, 61, said the Democratic congressman propositioned her for sex multiple times over more than a decade. She initially told her story to BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity, saying she had settled a complaint in 2015 with Mr Conyers over the allegations, according to her lawyer.

"It was sexual harassment ... violating my body," Ms Brown said on Thursday. "Propositioning me. Inviting me to hotels with the guise of discussing business and then propositioning me ... for sex."

Mr Conyers, meanwhile, was in a hospital in Detroit, political consultant and family friend Sam Riddle told the Associated Press. He said the information came from Mr Conyers' wife, Monica, and that he did not know why the 88-year-old had been admitted or his condition.

"We just pray for the congressman's recovery," Mr Riddle said.

Ms Brown broke a confidentiality agreement to tell her story to Today, saying she stayed in the job because she needed to support her family and found the work rewarding.

BuzzFeed News reported last week that the politician had settled a complaint two years ago for 27,000 US dollars with a female employee who alleged she was fired because she rejected his sexual advances. BuzzFeed did not name her and said the settlement was confidential.

Ms Brown's lawyer, Lisa Bloom, confirmed to AP after the NBC interview aired that she was the ex-worker in question. She said Ms Brown worked for Mr Conyers in a variety of capacities from 2003 until 2014, mostly in the Detroit district office.

Ms Brown said she was taking a risk by violating the confidentiality agreement. She said she spoke out to say she is "not a liar" and to request an apology from Mr Conyers. She said she reported some allegations to Mr Conyers' chief of staff in Detroit but nothing happened.

Some fellow Democrats are pushing Mr Conyers to resign, but Detroit-area lawyer Arnold Reed told AP on Wednesday that the congressman is innocent and has no plans to step down. Anyone making inappropriate touching or other claims against the longest-serving member of the House should be prepared to back them up, he added.

"He's going to fight these allegations tooth and nail if he has to with evidence, with documentation, witnesses, whatever he has to do," said Mr Reed. "And the accusers will have to prove up their case."

BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they witnessed Mr Conyers inappropriately touching female employees or requesting sexual favours.

A former scheduler filed a complaint earlier this year, but later dropped it. And a third ex-employee, Deanna Maher, said on Tuesday that in 1997 Mr Conyers undressed to his underwear in front of her and twice touched her leg inappropriately.

The House Ethics Committee is investigating Mr Conyers, and Mr Reed said he will co-operate with any investigation. Mr Conyers announced on Sunday that he would step aside as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has pressured Mr Conyers behind the scenes to leave the chamber, according to a senior House aide.

Also on Tuesday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus met Mr Conyers to explain to one of their founding members why he should resign, but stressed the decision was up to him, the senior House aide said.

Three Democratic House members have publicly suggested Mr Conyers should resign: Kathleen Rice, Earl Blumenhauer and Pramila Jayapal.

Mr Conyers is among several prominent men in politics, entertainment and journalism who have been accused of sexual misconduct in the wake of explosive allegations against former Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein.

On Wednesday, NBC's Today host Matt Lauer and humorist and writer Garrison Keillor were fired for inappropriate conduct.

AP


KEYWORDS: John Conyers

 

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