WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said a BuzzFeed report on alleged sexual harassment by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) was “extremely troubling,” and that a committee was reviewing the policies and procedures on how complaints were handled.
On Tuesday, BuzzFeed reported that Conyers, the longest serving member in the House, settled a wrongful termination complaint with a woman who alleged that she was fired for not consenting to his sexual advances. BuzzFeed also obtained documents from former staff members who accused him of unwanted sexual advances and other misconduct. But the story also exposed how the allegations were kept a secret.
Last week, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) noted the byzantine process for reporting complaints, as well as reports that Congress has paid out huge sums for settlements out of public view. The Washington Post reported that the Office of Compliance has paid $17 million for more than 250 settlements over the past 20 years, including sexual harassment complaints.
Conyers confirmed that there was a settlement, but denied wrongdoing.
“This report is extremely troubling,” Ryan said. “Last month, I directed the Committee on House Administration to conduct a full review of all policies and procedures related to workplace harassment and discrimination. A Committee hearing last week examining this issue led to a new policy of mandatory training for all members and staff. Additional reforms to the system are under consideration as the committee continues its review. People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination.”
Conyers is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and a longtime advocate for musicians and record labels on issues like copyright and digital payments.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for an investigation by the Ethics Committee.
“As members of Congress, we each have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the House of Representatives and to ensure a climate of dignity and respect, with zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying or abuse,” she said. “As I have said before, any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee.