The longest-serving US congressman has been accused of sexual harassment after settling a wrongful dismissal complaint of a female staffer in 2015, the latest in a series of scandals that have engulfed politicians and public figures in the United States.
Media reports claimed on Tuesday that US Democratic Representative John Conyers paid more than 27,000 dollars to settle a complaint by a woman who had been fired because she would “not succumb to (his) sexual advances.”
The employee, not named in reports, said on one occasion that the 88-year-old representative from Detroit had asked her to work from his hotel room and begun talking about his sexual desire, urging her to touch his genitals.
BuzzFeed News claimed it had obtained notarized affidavits from other staff members who described how Conyers “repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sex acts, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public.”
The powerful ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee said that he “expressly and vehemently denied the allegations,” but would cooperate if the US House of Representatives launched a comprehensive probe into the matter.
House Speaker Paul Ryan labeled the report “extremely troubling,” adding that a process was underway to reform the way Congress deals with such cases.
Conyers is the latest member of Congress to be confronted publicly with allegations of sexual misconduct, part of an avalanche of allegations against public figures that was sparked by reports on disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
High-profile scandals have so far engulfed other big names such as renowned actor Kevin Spacey and politicians like Republican Senate hopeful Roy Moore and Democratic Senator Al Franken.