House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top House Democrats on Thursday increased the pressure on Rep. John Conyers, who is facing multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and a House Ethics Committee probe, by calling on him to resign from office.
Pelosi's comments are a stark turnaround from her stance on Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" when she praised the Michigan Democrat as an "icon," questioned who his accusers are, and said the ethics probe should be allowed to go forward.
"Congressman Conyers should resign," Pelosi told reporters on Thursday.
"The allegations against Congressman Conyers, as we've heard more and more since Sunday, are serious, disappointing and very credible," she added. "It's very sad. A brave woman came forward...Zero tolerance means consequences for everyone — no matter how great a legacy is no license to harass or discriminate."
Pelosi changes stance, calls on Rep. Conyers to resignNov. 30, 201702:18
Conyers' attorney, however, defiantly rejected Pelosi's calls for his client to resign.
"It is not up to Nancy Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi did not elect Mr. Conyers," the attorney, Arnold Reed, said at a press conference Thursday in Detroit. "And she sure as hell won't be the one to tell the congressman to leave."
Reed also criticized Pelosi for demanding the lawmaker quit while not doing the same for Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who is facing a growing number of accusations of sexual misconduct. The Senate Ethics Committee announced on Thursday it had opened an investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against Franken.
Reed held another press conference Friday, saying that Conyers would "continue to defend himself until the cows come home" and added that he and the lawmaker would "discuss in the next day or so" what Conyers "plans to do."
But a decision by Conyers regarding a potential resignation "is not being made today (Friday) and will most likely not be made tomorrow," Reed added.
Meanwhile, the highest-ranking African-American Democrat in Congress, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, both said later Thursday that they felt Conyers should step down.
Clyburn's office confirmed to NBC News that he believes it is in Conyers' best interest to leave, while Hoyer said it was "appropriate for him to resign."
Earlier Thursday, Conyers' political consultant Sam Riddle told WDIV-TV that Conyers had been hospitalized due to stress and he blamed the "media assault" stemming from the allegations against the lawmaker.
"The congressman's health is not what it should be and a lot of that is directly attributable to this media assault," Riddle said, adding that "the reality is these serial accusers have done this before, we're used to it."
Conyers is "resting comfortably in an area hospital, he's doing OK, as well as can be expected for a gentleman that is approaching 90 years of age," Riddle said.
Conyers flew home to Detroit from Washington on Tuesday night, amid pressure from some of his Democratic colleagues to resign from Congress.
Earlier Thursday, a former aide came forward publicly and urged Conyers to admit what he did and apologize.
Marion Brown, a former deputy chief of staff to Conyers, told NBC's "TODAY" show that she decided to go public because she "felt compelled to stand up and speak out, to be a voice behind these allegations that I made."
"All I want from the congressman is to acknowledge what he did and apologize for me, to me, for calling me a liar," Brown said.
Brown revealed she was the ex-staffer with whom Conyers had settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 after she said she'd been fired for refusing the lawmaker's sexual advances. The settlement was first reported last week by Buzzfeed, which said Conyers had paid out $27,000 to a woman in exchange for a confidentiality agreement from her.
Conyers denied having done anything improper.
In the following days, several more women came forward alleging sexual misconduct.
Brown, in her interview, explained in greater detail what she had accused Conyers of having done.
"It was sexual harassment, violating, violating my body, propositioning me, inviting me to hotels with the guys discussing business, and then proposition me for sex," Brown said. "He's just violated my body. He has touched me in different ways, and it was very uncomfortable and very unprofessional."
Brown recalled a 2005 incident in a Chicago hotel room, in which she said Conyers had "invited me into the hotel and he has undressed, you know, down to his underwear. And again, it was the proposition of sexually satisfying him."
"He pointed to areas, genital areas of his body, and asked me to touch it," she added.
Brown said she left the room immediately.
She said she reported the behavior to her boss at the time, Conyers' chief of staff, who she recalled told her he "would talk to the congressman about his behavior."
But Brown said she "didn’t see any change because it continued after that."
Adam Edelman reported from New York and Leigh Ann Caldwell reported from Washington, D.C.