Speed Reads

Sexual Harassment

Second former staffer accuses Rep. John Conyers of sexual harassment

On Monday, Deanna Maher, a deputy chief of staff to Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) from 1997 to 2005, told The Detroit News that Conyers made unwanted sexual advances on her three times — inviting her to have sex with him in his hotel room in 1997, touching her against her wishes while driving to the airport in 1998, and touching her leg under her dress in 1999. Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress, stepped down from leadership of the House Judiciary Committee on Sunday amid an ethics investigation prompted by a settlement he reached with another staffer who accused him of sexual harassment. Conyers denies the accusations, including Maher's.

A former Detroit Free Press reporter said that Maher had told her about the alleged harassment at the time, but "she didn't feel confident she wouldn't be hung out to dry and retaliated against." Maher had a similar explanation for her silence. "I didn't report the harassment because it was clear nobody wanted to take it seriously," she told The Detroit News. "John Conyers is a powerful man in Washington, and nobody wanted to cross him."

A third woman, Melanie Sloan, told The Washington Post that Conyers had been verbally (but not sexually) abusive to her when she worked for him as minority counsel for the House Judiciary Committee in the 1990s. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — who took heat for calling Conyers "an icon" on Sunday — said Monday she had spoken with Sloan about the "unacceptable and disappointing" behavior by Conyers, but hadn't "had the opportunity to speak with the other women, one of whom cannot speak publicly because of the secretive settlement process in place" under the "ridiculous system" in Congress that must be changed.