A second woman has come forward accusing Democratic Michigan Rep. John Conyers of sexual harassment in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Detroit News reported Tuesday.
Deanna Maher says that while she was chief of staff for Conyers from 1997 to 2005, the congressman propositioned her three times, which included unwanted touching and inappropriate advances in a speeding car.
The first incident occurred in 1997, shortly after she had been hired, during a Congressional Black Caucus event. “I didn’t have a room, and he had me put in his hotel suite,” Maher said. She rejected his offer to share his Washington, D.C. Grand Hyatt hotel suite and have sex.
Conyers, who is now 88, then touched her without her consent in a car in 1998 while driving to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
“He was trying to feel me up with his right hand,” Maher said. “I kept pushing his hand away. Then he put his hand on my neck and started trying to tickle me. We were on I-75, and he was driving erratically. I was saved by the bell because we got pulled over by the police for the way he was driving.”
Conyers touched her legs under her dress in 1999 at a meeting with pastors in Highland Park. Conyers “put his hand up my dress and whispered in my ear, ‘I didn’t know you had such great legs.'” Maher said.
Maher says she remained on Conyers staff for several years after the incidents because she needed the job.
“I needed to earn a living, and I was 57. How many people are going to hire you at that age?” she said. She came forward now because she didn’t think anyone would care about her experience. “I didn’t report the harassment because it was clear nobody wanted to take it seriously,” she said. “John Conyers is a powerful man in Washington, and nobody wanted to cross him.”
Maher reported Conyers to the House Ethics Committee in 2003 for mistreating his staff by making them run personal errands and babysit his kid. She also blamed Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, for giving Conyers “nothing more than a ‘rap on his knuckles’… for not having ‘clarity’ in his instructions/order to staff to perform illegal/unethical duties,” Maher wrote in an email to the Ethics Committee in a 2011.
As with the other accusation, Conyers maintains that he did nothing wrong. “At the end of the day, he’s confident that he will be exonerated because he maintains that he has not done anything wrong,” Arnold Reed, an attorney for Conyers, told Detroit News.
Maher is the second woman to accuse Conyers of sexual harassment. Former Conyers staffer Melanie Sloan alleges that Conyers asked her into his office while he was wearing nothing but underwear. Conyers denied that accusation but resigned his position as ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee while the Ethics Committee investigates his behavior.
Pelosi appeared to defend Conyers Sunday, calling him an “icon” and saying that she did not know who his accusers were, when asked by “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd whether she believed the accusations. After meeting with Sloan, Pelosi said Monday that she believed the story, adding that “I find the behavior Ms. Sloan described unacceptable and disappointing.”
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