The resignation of John Conyers

December 8, 2017 GMT

U.S. Rep. John Conyers resigned from Congress on Tuesday after a nearly 53-year career.

Conyers became the first congressman to lose his job as he and several other lawmakers face allegations of sexual harassment.

The lawmaker’s resignation has wide impact beyond his heavily Democratic district in Detroit.

The 88-year-old congressman was the longest-serving member of the House. Before his resignation, Conyers recently stepped aside from his post as ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as the Ethics Committee began investigating him.

Conyers was first elected in 1964 and went on to become a founding member in 1971 of the Congressional Black Caucus. He easily won re-election last year to his 27th term.

The lawmaker and civil rights icon has had a long and distinguished career.

Conyers co-sponsored a 1972 resolution recommending President Richard Nixon’s impeachment for his conduct of the Vietnam War. He regularly introduced bills to study the harm caused by slavery and the possibility of reparations to the descendants of slaves.

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He was a driving force in helping to establish the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a federal holiday in 1986.

But this week Conyers’ career came to a sad and shocking end when he announced what he referred to as his “retirement” on Detroit talk radio, while continuing to deny he groped or sexually harassed women who worked for him.

Conyers insists that his resignation was the result of health concerns and not because of any sexual misconduct.

“My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now,” said Conyers, who called into the radio show from the hospital where he was taken last week after complaining of lightheadedness. “This, too, shall pass. My legacy will continue through my children.”

Some question the fairness and hypocrisy of the mounting pressure and calls to resign from colleagues in the House, including Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) resigned Thursday as at least 23 of his colleagues called for him to step down after a former Democratic congressional aide brought new accusations against him.

Conyers and Franken did the right thing by resigning. Their reported conduct if true is reprehensible. But what about the sexual misconduct allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and President Donald Trump? Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls and Trump has said on tape that he has groped women.

Prominent and powerful men in Hollywood and the media accused of sexual misconduct have been fired in recent weeks, including movie studio boss Harvey Weinstein and TV news hosts Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose.

This reflects a growing and long-overdue stand against sexual harassment and misconduct by powerful men against women in the workplace. Leaders must address the issue of sexual harassment in a more serious and systematic way while maintaining that the accused receives due process.