In an awkward interview, Nancy Pelosi defends Democratic congressman accused of harassment

Conyers holds a powerful position on Capitol Hill as ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, and Pelosi on Sunday defended what he has done as a longtime member of Congress.

Pelosi suggested Sunday that the allegations against Franken - including that he kissed a woman against her will - were less serious than those against Moore, who is accused by one woman of sexual advances toward her when she was 14. "We are at a watershed moment on this issue, and no matter how great an individual's legacy, it is not a license for harassment", Ms. Pelosi, California Democrat, said in a statement released Sunday afternoon.

Conyers, a longtime Michigan Democrat, is now embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal, amid reports that he secretly reached a settlement with a former female staffer.

Democrat Rep. John Conyers of Mich., who faces allegations of sexual harassment, said he is stepping aside as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee while an ethics investigation is pending.

Pelosi's defense of Conyers came just minutes after she acknowledged there was a "generational change" in the way sexual harassment allegations are treated, and praised women for increasingly confronting harassers. Regarding the second allegation, a spokesperson for Conyers' office told TIME that the former staffer had chose to drop the case. "But I have come to believe that my presence as ranking member would not serve these efforts while the ethics committee investigation is pending".

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Melanie Sloan, an attorney and former aide to Conyers, said she was verbally abused by the Democratic congressman, and although she maintains she was not sexually harassed, calling herself "no shrinking violet", she also claims he once summoned her for a meeting while in his underwear.

"I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics", Conyers said in a statement. She said Conyers is an "icon in this country" who through his work in Congress "has done a great deal to protect women".

Conyers added, "I would urge them to continue to do so for any Member accused of wrongdoing".

Judiciary Committee's ranking member, pending the outcome of the ethics probe.

Asked if she would be satisfied were Franken to apologize, rather than resign, Pelosi told NBC, "Right". Earlier Sunday morning, Pelosi stressed the importance of "due process", and said she believed Conyers would do the right thing.

  • Sonia Alvarado