Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving US congressman, has announced that he will immediately resign from the House of Representatives amid allegations of sexual misconduct leveled by multiple women.
Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan, sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi informing them of his decision to step down from Congress as of Tuesday.
“I was taught by a great woman, my mother, to honor women,” Conyers wrote, according to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee who read the letter before the House.
“Given the totality of the circumstance of not being afforded the right of due process in conjunction with current health conditions and to preserve my legacy and good name, I am retiring,” the letter said.
Last month, Conyers admitted to settling a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who claims he sexually harassed her.
Media reports said at the time that the 88-year-old paid more than $27,000 dollars to the woman who allegedly had been fired because she would “not succumb to (his) sexual advances.”
Conyers initially stepped down as the top Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee
Since then more women have come forward to accuse the lawmaker of sexual harassment, but he rejects the allegations and vows to fight his accusers in court.
Conyers told the local media on Tuesday that “I am retiring today,” and that he endorsed his son, John Conyers III, to replace him in Congress.
“My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now. This, too, shall pass. My legacy will continue through my children,” he said.
Conyers became the first to resign among four serving members of Congress facing allegations of sexual misconduct.
Congress is grappling with how to address the issue of sexual misconduct that has become a national debate in recent months.
Democratic leaders first stood by Conyers, who has represented Detroit for more than five decades, but later abandoned him when the seriousness of the allegations against him became apparent.
Michigan law says the state governor should decide whether to call a special election to fill the seat.
Earlier, Conyers’ grandnephew Michigan state Senator Ian Conyers, told The New York Times that he intended to run for Conyers’ seat.
Powerful figures in the worlds of entertainment, media and politics have been exposed as sexual predators since movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was first hit by accusations of sexual misconduct.
At the center of the controversy is Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexually assaulting and pursuing several teenage girls.
President Donald Trump has officially endorsed Moore, who is facing off against Democratic hopeful Doug Jones in a high-stakes special election in Alabama next week.
Trump previously called the allegations against Moore “very troubling.” However, he said Monday that a victory by Moore’s Democratic opponent “would be a disaster!”
The US president, who himself has been accused of sexual impropriety, also said he was happy that women were now coming forward accusing powerful men of sexual misconduct.
Weeks before the presidential election last November, The Washington Post released tapes in which Trump boasted about how he sexually assaulted women because he was powerful.
Trump then apologized for his vulgar comments, but now questions the authenticity of the tape.