Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan announced December 5 that he is retiring “immediately” from his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The resignation comes amid a firestorm of sexual harassment against him. Last week, he was hospitalized, his aides told a CNN affiliate. Rep. Conyers, 88, is approaching 90-years old, and his attorney said he was hospitalized due to a stress-related issue. That comes after the House Ethics Committee announced it was opening an investigation into allegations made against Conyers following a BuzzFeed News report saying he settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 after allegedly sexually harassing one of his staffers. He denied any wrongdoing in that instance, but admitted there was a financial settlement. Another former staffer claimed that Rep. Conyers made at least three sexual advances toward her when she worked in his office from 1997-2005. Through his attorney, he denied any wrongdoing in that instance.
With Rep. Conyers announcing his retirement, a seat opens up in the House, and several potential candidates have already announced their intentions to run. One of them is his son, John Conyers III.
Here’s what you need to know about Conyers III and the resignation:
1. Rep. Conyers Said He’d Endorse His Son in the Race
Rep. Conyers is the longest-serving member of the House, and announced from his hospital bed in Michigan that he was endorsing his son, John Conyers III, to replace him.
“I am retiring today,” he said during the interview on “The Mildred Gaddis Show.” “I am in the process of putting together my retirement plans. I will have more about that very soon.”
When sexual misconduct allegations were made against Rep. Conyers, his son was quick to defend him, saying to reporters that it was “disconcerting to see how his father is being treated.” He spoke to reporters outside of their family home in Detroit and said it was “very unfortunate to see him fight so long for so many people and to automatically have the allegations assumed to be true,” ClickOnDetroit.com reported.
Conyers III also noted that, “with sexual assault, women are to be believed.”
“But in this instance he has no history of this,” Conyers III told the news outlet. “And I think that if we’re not going to make Al Franken resign when we have evidence of him groping a woman while she was asleep … it’s disconcerting to me to see the way my father is being treated after he’s given so much to this country, not just for black people but for people alike. He fights for everyone.”
2. Rep. Conyers’ Great Nephew Also Said He Was Going to Run for the Vacant Seat
Rep. Conyers’ son isn’t the only family member intending to run for the vacant Detroit-area House seat. Ian Conyers, a Michigan state senator and great nephew of Rep. Conyers, said he also plans to run for the vacant seat. He’s held the State Senate seat for about one year and told The Times that he planned to run for re-election in 2018, but would give that up to run for the now-vacant House seat.
“I’m absolutely going to file for his seat,” Ian Conyers told The New York Times. “The work of our congressional district, where I come out of, has to continue. We have got to have someone who has depth and experience but also historical understanding of what it takes to fight this type of evil in Washington.”
3. Conyers III Called Speaker Ryan a ‘Coward’ for His Response to the Las Vegas Shooting
Conyers III is a contributor for The Huffington Post and lives in Detroit, as well as Los Angeles. His biography on the website describes him as being “a seasoned multi-discipline consultant who has provided fundraising and social media services to both political and business clients.”
Conyers III’s LinkedIn account said that he graduated from Morehouse College in 2012 with a major in philosophy. At the school, he participated in the pre-law society and the its mentoring program, his LinkedIn account said.
In his October 4 article titled, “Blaming Mental Illness for mass shootings shows cowardice and Paul Ryan is a Coward,” Conyers III describes what occurred in the days that followed the Las Vegas mass shooting on October 1. In his op-ed article, he calls Ryan and other members of Congress “cowards” for citing mental health as being one of the reasons Stephen Paddock shot and killed 58 people enjoying a concert across the street from his Vegas hotel.
Speaker Ryan lets focus on the real issue and that is gun control. Grow a pair, you and all of your colleagues, republican and democrat, who refuse to pass reform. Do not bring this fight to the doorstep of those who already have to battle with the stigma of mental illness. We have enough to deal with. Like not being able to confide in those closest to us about how our illness affects us. People telling us to just get over it or that it is all in our head.
Conyers III said in the piece that he’s dealt with “Major Depressive Disorder” since he was 15 and “not once thought about murder.”
“My friends with bi-polar and depression and multiple personality disorder don’t think about hurting others, if anything we think about hurting ourselves,” he wrote. “These shootings are carried out by white men who can’t stand the thought of minorities having equitable opportunities or that we’re encroaching upon their God-given right to treat people as they please.”
4. Conyers III Co-Founded a Non-Profit Which Donated Shoes to the Homeless
Conyers III is a partner at Palette Agency in Los Angeles, a creative agency where he teams with major film studios, record companies and book publishers to focus on creative direction, development, branding and more.
Conyers III’s LinkedIn page also said that he’s the co-founder and CEO of Forgotten Soles Foundation, which he helped establish in 2009. The non-profit organization worked to provide shoes for homeless people and the less fortunate. The organization worked to put together shoe drives at colleges. It’s unclear if the organization is still in operation, but the last tweet on its official Twitter account was sent in 2012.
5. His Brother Was Found Unharmed After He Went Missing
Rep. Conyers was born and raised in Detroit and served in the National Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War. He’s married, and Conyers III is one of two sons they have.
In November 2016, Carl Conyers, the youngest son of Rep. Conyers and brother of Conyers III, was found unharmed after going missing for almost three days. Police found him in Houston, and interviewed him about his whereabouts, though they didn’t immediately provide further details about how he was located. He was 21-years old at the time and was last seen November 14, 2016, by his roommate at their apartment near the University of Houston, where they weren’t to school.
“I’m very worried,” Rep. Conyers told CNN. “It’s very unlike him. He’s a very stable young guy.”
In the hours that followed his disappearance, his girlfriend called him only to get a message from him indicating that he was “OK.” An hour later, she and his roommate got a message telling them to meet him at a building on campus. But his girlfriend thought something wasn’t right with the request, and went back to his apartment only to find his ID and debit card gone. He was eventually found safe in his apartment and was later released to his family. The F.B.I. and Secret Service had joined in the search.