lawmaker: Pelosi harassment response set women back 'decades'
defense of John Conyers as 'an icon' squandered the party's
moral authority, Rep. Kathleen Rice says.
Democratic congresswoman laced into Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on
Wednesday, suggesting the top House Democrat “set women back and —
quite frankly, our party back — decades” by failing to more
forcefully confront allegations of sexual harassment by veteran
Democratic Rep. John Conyers.
to reporters at the Capitol, Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York said
Pelosi’s appearance on “Meet the Press” on Sunday — when she raised
questions about the accounts of Conyers’ accusers and described the
Michigan Democrat as an “icon” — ceded the party’s moral high ground
on sexual harassment issues, especially because one of Conyers’
accusers is bound by a nondisclosure agreement.
think that her comments on Sunday set women back and — quite
frankly, our party back — decades,” said Rice, who is advocating for
legislation that would expose a slew of hidden, taxpayer-funded
settlements for sexual harassment by lawmakers and aides.
said Pelosi’s comments were particularly egregious in light of
President Donald Trump’s tacit embrace of Roy Moore, the Alabama GOP
Senate candidate accused of molesting a minor.
think that we ceded the moral high ground on Sunday when our leader
said on ‘Meet the Press’ that John Conyers was an icon and we don’t
even know who these women are, when she was fully aware that the
woman in question was bound by a nondisclosure agreement,” Rice
said. “I think we had an opportunity to stake that moral high ground
when you have a president who is supporting a man for Senate who —
all credible allegations that have not been refuted — showed him to
be a predator of teenage girls.”
Pelosi spokesman said Rice’s comments were not an accurate portrayal
of the minority leader’s sentiment.
leader was very clear on Sunday that no matter how great an
individual’s legacy, it’s not a license for harassment,” said the
spokesman, Drew Hammill.
also noted that Pelosi, in her “Meet the Press” interview, said she
favored eliminating nondisclosure agreements that silenced victims
from speaking out.
of these nondisclosure agreements have to go,” she told NBC’s Chuck
Todd in the interview. Since that interview, Hammill added, Pelosi
has said she believes Conyers’ accusers and subsequently spoke to
one of them about her story. She also has signaled support for
legislation from Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) that would reform the
system of harassment reporting in Congress to protect victims.
was among of a group of Democrats who vocally opposed Pelosi’s
reelection as Democratic leader when the caucus voted after the
November election to give Pelosi another term.
comments escalate her already pointed criticism of Pelosi’s
leadership — and of her Democratic colleagues, who she said earlier
Wednesday were not confronting sexual harassment issues within their
own ranks seriously enough. She’s one of three Democratic lawmakers,
along with Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Earl Blumenauer
of Oregon, who have called for Conyers to resign immediately.
left early Wednesday from a closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting
reportersshe bailed because she didn't think her colleagues
were approaching the harassment issue seriously. A Democratic aide
said Rice exited after Pelosi spoke about the issue and also missed
at least a portion of the comments from eight Democratic lawmakers
who addressed harassment issues.
was a lengthy discussion of sexual harassment policies and reforms
needed," the aide said.