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Nancy Pelosi says accused Rep. John Conyers is 'an icon in our country'

Nancy Pelosi on NBC

Update 1:22 p.m.: After Conyers stepped aside from his Judiciary Committee role pending an ethics investigation, Pelosi said his civil rights legacy "is not a license for harassment," commending "the brave women coming forward" and stating, "Zero tolerance means consequences." Our original post appears below.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a Sunday appearance on NBC's Meet the Press offered high praise for Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who reportedly settled a wrongful dismissal lawsuit from a former employee who was fired after declining Conyers' "sexual advances."

"John Conyers is an icon in our country," Pelosi told host Chuck Todd. "He has done a great deal to protect women." Pelosi said she is confident Conyers will "do the right thing" and sidestepped a question about believing his accuser by protesting that she does not know the woman's identity.

Her remarks soon attracted broad criticism from left and right alike:

Conyers has "expressly and vehemently" denied the harassment allegations, which have led to his hometown paper's call for his resignation.