[guest post by Dana]
On Sunday, Rep. John Conyers (D) stepped down from his leadership role on the House Judiciary Committee due to an ethics investigation being launched into allegations of sexual harassment, as well as using taxpayer dollars in a $27,000 payout to the former staffer. This morning, another former female staffer has come out and made allegations against the Democratic “icon”:
A former staffer of U.S. Rep. John Conyers said the veteran lawmaker made unwanted sexual advances toward her, including inappropriate touching, adding to allegations by other unnamed former employees that have prompted a congressional investigation.
Deanna Maher, who worked for him from 1997 to 2005, told The Detroit News that the Detroit Democrat made unwanted advances toward her three times.
I didn’t have a room, and he had me put in his hotel suite,” said Maher, 77, adding that she rejected his offer to share his room at the Grand Hyatt in Washington and have sex.
The other incidents with the now 88-year-old Conyers involved unwanted touching in a car in 1998 and another unwanted touching of her legs under her dress in 1999, she said.
When questioned as to why she didn’t report Conyers at the time, and in fact, kept working for him, Maher claimed:
“I needed to earn a living, and I was 57. How many people are going to hire you at that age?” she said.
“I didn’t report the harassment because it was clear nobody wanted to take it seriously,” she said. “John Conyers is a powerful man in Washington, and nobody wanted to cross him.”
However, Maher told reporter Joel Thurtell, of the Detroit Free Press, about the incidents at the time but was afraid to go on the record with her claims:
“She told me about the sexual harassment claims, but at the time she didn’t feel confident she wouldn’t be hung out to dry and retaliated against,” said Thurtell, who left the Free Press in 2007 and runs a blog, “Joel on the Road.”
“So there was no way I could report it. I spoke with her last week, and she said she just didn’t feel comfortable at the time going on the record with the allegations.”
Apparently Conyers’ bad behavior toward women was another one of those open secrets we keep hearing about. Except that this time, it was an open secret among female news journalists, as Cokie Roberts explained during a Sunday “powerhouse” round-table segment with Martha Raddatz:
Don’t get in the elevator with him, you know, and the whole every female in the press corps knew that, right, don’t get in elevator with him. Now people are saying it out loud. And I think that does make a difference.
It’s not surprising that Roberts didn’t say anything sooner about Conyers, given her consistent defense of Bill Clinton against his accusers. It’s laughable to see yet another powerful Democratic woman, whose professional occupation happens to be that of journalist, choose to remain silent for who knows how many years and enable the bad behavior of a powerful lawmaker. One could easily assume every female in the press corps remained silent about Conyers, at least publicly, because advancing their careers took priority over protecting female subordinates and staffers in Conyers’ office and publicly exposing the dirty secret of rampant sexual misconduct in the halls of Congress. If they spoke out publicly about Conyers (and who knows who else), they risked being blackballed by him and by extension, any other Congressmen behaving badly. That was a risk they were likely unwilling to take. It also stands to reason that in order for every female in the press corps to collectively know that it wasn’t wise to get into an elevator with Conyers, something had to have happened in the first place to alert them to the potential danger. What was that, and to whom did it happen?
For the side of the aisle that, for decades, has smugly claimed to be the champion of women, it becomes yet again too obvious what a sham that claim is, based on the inaction of Nancy Pelosi and Cokie Roberts. And when every female in the press corps who have a unique platform from which to speak, are revealed to have enabled and protected a powerful, badly behaving lawmaker, then the gig is up.
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)