Last week Buzzfeed published a piece on rep. John Conyers, which should infuriate every tax-payer and women’s right’s advocate in the country. :
Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”
Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sex acts, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.
Conyers confirmed he made the settlement in a statement Tuesday afternoon, hours after this story was published, but said that he “vehemently denied” the claims of sexual harassment at the time and continues to do so.
And the documents also reveal the secret mechanism by which Congress has kept an unknown number of sexual harassment allegations secret: a grinding, closely held process that left the alleged victim feeling, she told BuzzFeed News, that she had no option other than to stay quiet and accept a settlement offered to her.
“I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go,” she said in a phone interview. BuzzFeed News is withholding the woman’s name at her request because she said she fears retribution.
Last week the Washington Post reported that Congress’s Office of Compliance paid out $17 million for 264 settlements with federal employees over 20 years for various violations, including sexual harassment. The Conyers documents, however, give a glimpse into the inner workings of the office, which has for decades concealed episodes of sexual abuse by powerful political figures.
“I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go.”
The woman who settled with Conyers launched the complaint with the Office of Compliance in 2014, alleging she was fired for refusing his sexual advances, and ended up facing a daunting process that ended with a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a settlement of more than $27,000. Her settlement, however, came from Conyers’ office budget rather than the designated fund for settlements.
Congress has no human resources department. Instead, congressional employees have 180 days to report a sexual harassment incident to the Office of Compliance, which then leads to a lengthy process that involves counseling and mediation, and requires the signing of a confidentiality agreement before a complaint can go forward.
Here the list of settlements between 1997 and 2017:
Another interesting part of this is how the story broke out. Rather than publish the story himself, Mike Cernovich (Journalist, Blogger, Author) chose to leak the information to Buzzfeed because he felt that it would increase the likelihood that these congressman be held accountable if it came from the mainstream media.
Why I Tipped off BuzzFeed to the Biggest Story of the Year
Congressman John Conyers Jr is a serial sexual predator, and I gave the story to BuzzFeed rather than break it myself.
“Pull over, I’m about to throw up.” My wife was driving our SUV as I occupied our daughter Cyra while cruising in the back. I had just given away the biggest story of the year, and the biggest story of my career, to BuzzFeed. I couldn’t relax and couldn’t sleep, because a story of this magnitude is a career making even at the highest levels of journalism. Well…Why did I do it?
Plan A was simple. I’d run the story about Conyers myself. The Democrat-Media establishment hacks at CNN would attack me. They would call me a fake news conspiracy theorist. This would be saturation coverage, making me the biggest story of the week.
I would slowly release my sourcing on the story, until, at the height of the attacks, I would show all of my cards. The media and Democrat establishment would be humiliated. It’d have been Breitbart v. Weiner 2.0, and I’d be a superstar.
Plan B would be to tip off someone in the mainstream media to this story.If a mainstream outlet breaks this story, Democrats are required to answer the story. They can’t use their usual smear tactics. They can’t say, “We don’t respond to conspiracy theorists like Mike Cernovich!”
By going to the media, my reasoning went, the information gets out. This is how to hold Congress accountable, and demand they unseal their hidden record of sexual abuse.
I couldn’t give a big story CNN, because CNN lies about me, they defame me, and they never give me the opportunity to defend myself. They are the worst of cowards, taking shows from behind the TV while refusing to give me the right to reply. Vice is fake news, and The Daily Beast is helping a stalker lead a harassment campaign against wife and daughter. WaPo and the NY Times aren’t that bad, actually, and they’ve stopped lying (for the most part) about me. But Maggie Haberman once refused to give me credit for a scoop, so that disqualified the NY Times.
BuzzFeed seemed like a great outlet for this story because they’d be likely to work the entire weekend to get it out. BuzzFeed worked tirelessly on it (I assume), and no we did not coordinate. I tipped them off and they did the rest. What they did is none of my business and I take zero credit for their work.
Conyers’ behavior is part of a larger pattern of cover-ups led by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senators like John McCain and Jeff Flake.
I had to stand up for what’s right, and that’s why I tipped off BuzzFeed to this story.
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