Rep. Kathleen Rice calls on fellow Democrat accused of sexual harassment to resign

Rep. Kathleen Rice calls on fellow Democrat accused of sexual harassment to resign
Rep. Kathleen Rice, speaking with Chris Cuomo on the CNN program New Day, reaffirmed her calls for Rep. Conyers to resign on Friday. (Photo from CNN)

Rep. Kathleen Rice called for Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat accused of sexually harassing staff members and firing one for rejecting him, to resign this week, both in a statement and on CNN.

Rice, the representative the 4th Congressional District, was the first House Democrat to call for the longtime legislator and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee to resign.

The 4th Congressional District of New York includes Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Mineola, Carle Place, Garden City, Hempstead, East Meadow, East Rockaway, and other parts of central and southern Nassau County.

“The women who reported this behavior suffered serious professional repercussions for doing so, which is exactly why so many victims of sexual harassment and assault decide not to step forward,” Rice said in a statement. “If men who engage in this behavior suffered real repercussions, more victims would speak up – and maybe other men would decide to act like decent, civilized adults and not prey on women who work for and trust and admire them.”

“Whether it happened 40 years ago or last week, settlement or no settlement, Democrat or Republican — harassment is harassment, assault is assault,” added Rice, who served as Nassau County District Attorney before being elected to Congress.

A report from Buzzfeed News highlights a settlement reached in Congress’s Office of Compliance, where Conyers and the complainant, whose name was hidden for fear of repercussions, settled for $27,000. In that case, four signed affidavits from former staff members alleged that Conyers made sexual advances to female staff.

When Chris Cuomo asked Rice, a former district attorney for Nassau County, about the concept of someone being “innocent until proven guilty,” she said that “we’re not talking about a court of law here” and that there is no legal standard here.

“We are talking about the court of public opinion. We are talking about holding men accountable for their actions and a lot of these men, against whom these allegations have been made, are never going to face their day in court,” Rice said. “The victims in these cases are never going to have their day in court.”

The House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into the allegations on Tuesday, which Rice had expressed support for on Twitter prior to calling for his resignation.

Conyers, while confirming the settlement, said he “expressly and vehemently” denies the allegations and will “fully cooperate with an investigation.”

“My office resolved the allegations – with an express denial of liability – in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation. That should not be lost in the narrative,” Conyers said in a statement. “The resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment.”

Powerful men facing accusations of sexual harassment and assault have made the headlines for the last several weeks in wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, which detailed years of unwanted sexual advances and intimidation against Hollywood women by the Hollywood power broker.

Conyers is one of many men in power – comedian Louis C.K., Senate-hopeful Roy Moore, former president George H.W. Bush, Roy Price of Amazon Studios, and NPR editor Michael Oreskes being just a few of them – who are now facing allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

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