DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – U.S. Congressman John Conyers is hospitalized for a stress-related illness.
Family spokesperson Sam Riddle confirmed Thursday morning that the 88-year-old Detroit Democrat is seeking treatment at a local hospital after experiencing “stress-related” symptoms.
“Monica Conyers, Mrs. Conyers, is by his side and we just ask, really the nation, to pray for this Congressman that has done so much for the nation,” Riddle told WWJ’s Ron Dewey.
Attorney Arnold Reed, who represents the embattled congressman, later revealed Conyers was hospitalized late Wednesday night after experiencing dizziness, chest pains and shortness of breath. “Councilman Conyers was walking around in his home and felt lightheaded and they rushed him to the hospital,” he added, at a news conference.
Conyers, the longest-serving member of the U.S. House, is currently embroiled in a scandal after being accused of sexual misconduct by several former female staff members.
When asked if Conyers’ health problems are related to the scandal, Reed said he would be “surprised if they were not.”
It’s unclear how long the congressman will be hospitalized.
“John Conyers is a fighter. He’s in good spirits from what I understand and I haven’t gotten any reports otherwise,” Reed said.
News of Conyers’ hospitalization came the same morning former staffer Marion Brown went on NBC’s “Today” alleging the congressman subjected her to years of sexual harassment. Brown says Conyers propositioned her for sex multiple times over more than a decade. She says she stayed on the job because she needed to support her family and found the work rewarding. Conyers settled Brown’s complaint in 2015 for $27,000.
Last week, BuzzFeed News reported that Conyers had settled a complaint in 2015 from a woman on his staff who alleged she was fired because she rejected his sexual advances. BuzzFeed reported that Conyers’ office paid the woman more than $27,000 in the confidential settlement. BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they had witnessed Conyers touching female staffers inappropriately or requesting sexual favors.
A former scheduler, who has not been named, filed a complaint earlier this year, but later dropped it. And a third ex-staffer, Deanna Maher, said Tuesday that in 1997 Conyers undressed to his underwear in front of her and twice touched her leg inappropriately.
The House Ethics Committee is investigating Conyers, who announced Sunday that he would step aside as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
Tuesday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with Conyers and explained to one of their founding members why he should resign, but stressed the decision was up to him, the senior House aide said.
Two days later, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she prayed for Conyers. “However,” she said, “Congressman Conyers should resign.”
Conyers’ wife Monica told reporters that her husband is entitled to have the judicial process play out “before we start being his judge and jury … and tarnish all of these years of his legacy for nothing.”
Conyers was first elected to the U.S. House in 1964 and is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“It’s very unfortunate to see him fight so long for so many people and to automatically have the allegations assumed to be true,” said his son, John Conyers III. He noted, however: “And of course, with sexual assault, women are to be believed. But in this instance he has no history of this.”
Conyers is among a number of prominent men in politics, entertainment and journalism who have been accused of sexual misconduct in the wake of explosive allegations against former Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein. On Wednesday, NBC’s “Today” host Matt Lauer and humorist and Garrison Keillor were fired for inappropriate conduct.
The most outspoken of the women claiming harassment by Conyers is Maher, who ran a Michigan office for Conyers from 1997 to 2005.
Maher described one incident in 1997 during a Congressional Black Caucus event in Washington, saying while she was in the bedroom of a hotel suite, Conyers walked in, ordered sandwiches and undressed.
“I had my nightclothes on,” said Maher, who now lives in the Holland area in western Michigan. “I was just scared to death. I was married at the time. He sat in the bedroom taking his clothes off. I didn’t say anything and he didn’t say anything.”
Nothing happened between them, she added.
“He didn’t go naked. He was down to his skivvies,” Maher said. “He sat there eating sandwiches and then he stormed out and slammed the door. I was so embarrassed and ashamed of myself for being so stupid. I needed a job.”
She added: “He didn’t put his hand on me, but the message was loud and clear.”
© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.