Rep. John Conyers Retires Amid Allegations Of Sexual Assault The longest serving member of the House is resigning. Democrat John Conyers, 88, has represented Detroit since 1965. He's stepping down amid accusations that he sexually assaulted several aides over the years. He denies the allegations, but announced on Tuesday that he is retiring, effective immediately. At the same time he endorsed his son John Conyers III to succeed him in congress. A special election is required to fill the seat.
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Rep. John Conyers Retires Amid Allegations Of Sexual Assault

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Rep. John Conyers Retires Amid Allegations Of Sexual Assault

Rep. John Conyers Retires Amid Allegations Of Sexual Assault

Rep. John Conyers Retires Amid Allegations Of Sexual Assault

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/568653473/568653474" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The longest serving member of the House is resigning. Democrat John Conyers, 88, has represented Detroit since 1965. He's stepping down amid accusations that he sexually assaulted several aides over the years. He denies the allegations, but announced on Tuesday that he is retiring, effective immediately. At the same time he endorsed his son John Conyers III to succeed him in congress. A special election is required to fill the seat.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives is stepping down after allegations of sexual harassment by former aides. Eighty-eight-year-old John Conyers announced his retirement this morning. He denies the allegations made against him but says he is leaving office immediately. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea has the report.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: John Conyers has represented Detroit in Congress since 1965. He earned an early reputation as a champion of civil rights and for labor unions. He helped found the Congressional Black Caucus. He was prominent in pushing for articles of impeachment against President Nixon. Now he steps down amid claims of sexual harassment. Conyers made the announcement this morning on local Detroit radio on "The Mildred Gaddis Show."

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE MILDRED GADDIS SHOW")

JOHN CONYERS: Top of the morning, Mildred Gaddis.

MILDRED GADDIS: Good morning, Congressman. How are you?

GONYEA: Gaddis has been one of Conyers' strongest defenders even as Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and others, including South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn, of the Congressional Black Caucus have called for his resignation. Conyers, who has been hospitalized for what's been described as stress-related symptoms since last week, said the allegations against him are just politics, that there's no truth to them.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE MILDRED GADDIS SHOW")

CONYERS: They are not accurate, or they're not true. And I can't explain where they came from.

GONYEA: In one of those cases, Conyers entered into a $27,000 settlement with his accuser, a former aide. The claim was paid out of his office fund. Still, Conyers made the following announcement during that 10-minute conversation today on the radio program.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE MILDRED GADDIS SHOW")

CONYERS: I am retiring today.

GONYEA: Note that he used the word retire not resign. He asked Representative Sheila Jackson Lee to convey his wishes to the U.S. House in Washington. She did so, reading a letter from Conyers in which he cited health reasons and a lack of due process in dealing with the claims against him. Representative Lee also offered her own brief tribute to him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHEILA JACKSON LEE: In addition to being the first member to introduce a Martin Luther King holiday bill, he was the first to hold hearings on police misconduct, the first to examine the problem of solitary confinement, the first to offer racial-profiling legislation, the first to introduce legislation protecting against disenfranchisement of ex-felons.

GONYEA: In the congressional district in Detroit, interviews with constituents in recent days showed plenty of support for Conyers, though even some who defended him said it's time for him to retire. Conyers meanwhile addressed the question of his legacy during the radio interview, pointing to his family as a key part of that and giving a potential boost to another political career.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE MILDRED GADDIS SHOW")

CONYERS: My legacy will continue through my children and especially in my oldest boy, John Conyers III, who incidentally I endorsed to replace me in my seat in Congress.

GONYEA: John Conyers III is 27 years old and has never held elective office. Additionally, a great nephew of Conyers, State Senator Ian Conyers, has also expressed interest in the seat. He's 29. The governor of Michigan will schedule a special election. Others are expected to jump into the race for a seat that is now open for the first time in a half-century made so as John Conyers, the dean of the U.S. House, leaves office after 52 years and 11 months. Don Gonyea, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF LANA DEL REY'S "BLUE JEANS (KRIS MENACE INSTRUMENTAL)")

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