Conyers Retires, Family Feud Ensues

Within minutes of the announcement, a feud erupted within his family over who would replace him.

Alex Wong

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the longest serving member of the House of Representatives and the subject of a flurry of sexual-misconduct allegations in the last few weeks, said he was "retiring today" during a radio interview Tuesday.

"I'm in the process of putting my retirement plans together and I'll have more of that very soon," Conyers said in an interview with the station, Praise 102.7.

No sooner had he announced plans to vacate his seat, however, than an intra-family feud erupted into public view over who would take it over.

The embattled Michigan Democrat said on Tuesday that he wanted his son, John Conyers III, to replace him when he departs. But earlier in the morning, Conyers' nephew, Ian Conyers, said that he would be seeking the seat.

“I’m absolutely going to file for his seat, Ian Conyers, a state senator, told the New York Times. "The work of our congressional district, where I come out of, has to continue."

The confusion over Conyer's replacement reflected the frantic final chapter of the congressman's storied-turned-controversial career.

The House Ethics Committee announced last week that it had opened an investigation into allegations against Conyers following a BuzzFeed News story revealing that the Democrat from Michigan had settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 after a staffer allegedly that he had sexually harassed her.

Another woman, Melanie Sloan, who served as the former executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), told The Washington Post that she experienced inappropriate behavior from the congressman that stopped short of sexual harassment. In one instance, Sloan said, Conyers summoned her to his office, where he was in his underwear.

And on Tuesday, yet another woman came forward with a story of his inappropriate behavior to The Detroit News — the third allegation against Conyers to be made public in the last two weeks. The woman, Deanna Maher, worked for Conyers from 1997 to 2005 and detailed three instances of his advances and misconduct in the late 1990s.

While Democrats struggled with how to handle the damage control, pressure mounted behind the scenes. Eventually, Democratic House leadership all called for Conyers to leave office immediately.

“The allegations against Conyers, we have learned more since Sunday, are serious, disappointing and very credible,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said last week. “Congressman Conyers should resign.”

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who had been dismissive of questions about Conyers’ conduct, echoed the sentiment. The third-ranking Democrat in the House also told reporters that it would be in the “best interest” of Conyers and his colleagues for him to step down.

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!

Daily Digest

Start and finish your day with the top stories from The Daily Beast.

Cheat Sheet

A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know (and nothing you don't).

By clicking “Subscribe,” you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason.

Through it all, Conyers’ attorney remained defiant that the elder statesman would not resign, compelling House Democratic aides to float the idea of removing Conyers entirely from the House Judiciary Committee if he remained in office.

Conyers is heralded as a civil rights hero, having introduced the first bill in Congress that honored Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday after his assassination in 1968. He has long been a proponent of a single-payer health care system, reintroducing the United States National Health Care Act each session since 2003. He has served in Congress since 1964 and co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969.

On Tuesday, he defended his legacy , saying it "can't be compromised or diminished in any way by what we're going through now."

He added, "This too shall pass."