MI Rep. Conyers admits to paying settlement, denies harassment allegations

DETROIT (AP MODIFIED) -

The Latest on sexual harassment allegations against Rep. John Conyers (all times local):

2 p.m.

Rep. John Conyers is now admitting that he paid a settlement to a former staffer but is denying sexual harassment allegations from the same staffer.

In an amended statement released to 7 Action News on Tuesday afternoon, Conyers said, "I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so.  My office resolved the allegations – with an express denial of liability – in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation."

The entire statement reads:

“I have long been and continue to be a fierce advocate for equality in the workplace and I fully support the rights of employees who believe they have been harassed or discriminated against to assert claims against their employers.  That said, it is important to recognize that the mere making of an allegation does not mean it is true.  The process must be fair to both the employee and the accused.  The current media environment is bringing a much-needed focus to the important issue of preventing harassment in workplaces across the country.  However, equally important to keep in mind in this particular moment is the principle of due process and that those accused of wrongdoing are presumed innocent unless and until an investigation establishes otherwise.   In our country, we strive to honor this fundamental principle that all are entitled to due process.  In this case, I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so.  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.  The resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment.  There are statutory requirements of confidentiality that apply to both the employee and me regarding this matter.  To the extent the House determines to look further at these issues, I will fully cooperate with an investigation.”

He also released a statement pertaining to an AP report this morning: 

“The Associated Press made an unannounced visit to the home of Congressman Conyers this morning.  Congressman Conyers was under the impression the reporter was speaking of recent allegations of which he was unaware of and denied.” 

10:20 a.m.

Longtime Michigan Rep. John Conyers has told The Associated Press that he hasn't settled any sexual harassment complaints with any staff members.

Conyers, who answered the door at his Detroit home Tuesday morning, says he knows nothing about any claims of inappropriate touching and learned of the story just hours earlier.

Referring to allegations of sexual harassment and assault being made against politicians and others, the veteran lawmaker says he's "been looking at these things with amazement."

BuzzFeed reports that Conyers' office paid the woman over $27,000 to settle the complaint under a confidentiality agreement. BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they had witnessed Conyers touching female staffers inappropriately or requesting sexual favors.

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9:55 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says it's "deeply troubling" that 88-year-old Rep. John Conyers reportedly settled a complaint in 2015 with a female aide who claimed she was fired after spurning his sexual advances.

Ryan says the House is changing its procedures for handling charges of harassment and discrimination, which have been called too weak and cumbersome.

The Wisconsin Republican says House employees "deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination."

The speaker's statement didn't mention Conyers' name. Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong confirmed it was directed at the Michigan Democrat.

Conyers entered the House in 1965 and is currently its longest-serving member. He's top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

The Buzzfeed News report said Conyers paid the woman $27,000 to settle the complaint with a confidentiality agreement.

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3 a.m.

A news website Is reporting that Michigan Rep. John Conyers settled a complaint in 2015 from a woman who alleged she was fired from his Washington staff because she rejected his sexual advances.

BuzzFeed reports that Conyers' office paid the woman over $27,000 to settle the complaint under a confidentiality agreement. BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they had witnessed Conyers touching female staffers inappropriately or requesting sexual favors.

BuzzFeed says it received the documents from right-wing activist Mike Cernovich, but independently confirmed their authenticity.

The 88-year-old Conyers is the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee and the longest-serving current member of the House. Calls to Conyers and his office seeking comment were not immediately returned Monday night.

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