Veteran newswoman Cokie Roberts has come forward to say that female members of the Congressional press corps were aware that Rep. John Conyers had a penchant for harassing behavior, and that women were told not to get into elevators alone with the embattled Congressman.
Speaking with ABC's "This Week" on a panel with other high-profile members of the Washington press corps, Roberts claimed that "every female in the press corps knew" not to be caught alone with Conyers, and that the "American icon," as Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi called him, was known as a predator.
"Don’t get in the elevator with him, you know, and the whole every female in the press corps knew that, right, don’t get in elevator with him," said Roberts. "Now people are saying it out loud. And I think that does make a difference."
Conyers has been accused of sexual harassment by at least two former staffers, one of whom went public only Monday, claiming that the Congressman put his hand up her skirt while the pair were driving together to a meeting.
Conyers has already denied the accusation, and through his lawyer has claimed — bizarrely — that his accuser should not be believed because she failed to inform a police officer of the harassment after the pair were pulled over for speeding on the highway (when she was just inches from the man who had, just moments before, fondled her leg).
Roberts's admission begs the question of how long members of the D.C. establishment — including both media and Democratic leadership — were aware of and tolerated Conyers' behavior. Roberts has been out of daily press routine for nearly a decade, and she says that warnings circulated for years during the height of her tenure, in the 1990s.
Although Nancy Pelosi is now condemning her Democratic colleague, she was clearly tolerant of Conyers' behavior until at least Sunday, when she told NBC's Chuck Todd that Conyers deserved "due process" and that his accuser should not be believed because Conyers had routinely supported "women's rights" legislation. As Democratic majority leader, she must have been aware that one of her own senior colleagues was so feared by women aides and reporters that they refused to be alone with him . . . right?
Conyers has refused to step down from his position in Congress, but did remove himself from a senior committee placement.