Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) has served the state of Michigan as a congressman since 1965. But after the revelation that he paid a former staffer to keep quiet about sexual harassment, his hometown newspaper wants him out of office.
The editorial board of the Detroit Free Press published an editorial with a simple premise: Conyers must resign.
“It is the kind of behavior that can never be tolerated in a public official, much less an elected representative of the people,” the editorial read.
“He should resign his position and allow the investigation into his behavior to unfold without the threat that it would render him, and the people he now represents, effectively voiceless,” it went on.
After a former staffer made a formal complaint of sexual harassment to the U.S. Congress Office of Compliance, Conyers offered to re-hire her as a temporary no-show employee and pay her more than $27,000 over the course of three months in exchange for her dropping the complaint and signing a document absolving Conyers of any wrongdoing. She accepted.
“It looks an awful lot like hush money,” the editorial read.
‘Undisputed hero of civil rights’
The editorial board took a tone of disappointment and reluctance in calling for Conyers’ resignation.
After all, Conyers has served Michigan constituents for more than 53 years in Congress, and longer than that as a social activist.
“We reach this conclusion with an incredible amount of disappointment,” they wrote. “The word ‘hero’ is invoked, without much hyperbole, around Conyers’ name, dating not only to his initial run for Congress the mid 1960s, but to the stalwart civil rights activism in the 1950s and early 1960s that brought him to that point.
Some of Conyers’ accomplishments include:
- He’s the first African-American to hold the distinction as Dean (most senior member) of Congress.
- He introduced the original legislation to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a federal holiday — four days after King’s death. The bill would pass in 1983.
- He’s the founding member and Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus.
- He’s the ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary.
- He’s a veteran of the Korean War.
Despite all that, the conclusion remains the same: Conyers’ behavior is unacceptable, and he’s got to go.
“It’s a tragic end to his public career,” the editorial reads. “But it’s the appropriate consequence for the stunning subterfuge his office has indulged here, and a needed warning to other members of Congress that this can never be tolerated.”