Democratic Party Chair Tom Perez, during a radio interview on Wednesday, would not say if he thinks Michigan Rep. John Conyers should resign after allegations of sexual harassment against the congressman have emerged in the past week.
In an interview with Newsradio WGAN on Wednesday morning, Perez was asked directly if he thinks "people like Al Franken and John Conyers should resign or stay in Congress."
Perez responded that he thinks sexual harassment is "wrong" and would not say if he thought Conyers should resign, but pointed to the House Ethics Committee investigation currently underway.
"I think that sexual harassment regardless of party, regardless of who's involved, whether it's a celebrity like you just mentioned on the Today show, or if it's someone in a plant in rural Maine, or here in the nation's capitol, it's wrong," he said. "And that is why we have to be aggressive in making sure that we are both investigating it fairly and fully, giving an opportunity for women to be heard and listened to, and making sure in Congress and elsewhere that we have systems in place to prevent it."
WGAN morning news host Matt Gagnon pressed Perez on whether Conyers should resign given that a congressional payout was involved in at least one case brought against him.
"Do you think that people like that deserve to be serving the public?" Gagnon asked.
"This is exactly why there's an ethics committee, and this is exactly why Congress needs to reform how it handles these issues," Perez said, adding that, "There have to be prompt but very full investigations here."
Perez's comments come a week after BuzzFeed News revealed sexual harassment allegations against Conyers, one of which he settled in a 2015 lawsuit. Since then, three other instances of sexual harassment allegations against Conyers have emerged.
On Sunday, Conyers "stepped aside" from his role as ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee while the ethics investigation continues, though he still denies the allegations against him.
Three House Democrats have so far called for Perez to step down.
Last week, New York Rep. Kathleen Rice was the first Democrat to call for Conyers to resign. "I've reviewed the allegations against him, and they're as credible as they are repulsive," she said in a statement.
Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal joined Rice's calls for Conyers to step down.
"It is not easy for me to reach this conclusion because, as a civil rights activist, I have looked up to Representative Conyers for decades. I believe these women, I see the pattern and there is only one conclusion — Rep. Conyers must resign," Jayapal wrote on Twitter.
On Wednesday, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan told CNN he wants the ethics investigation to be wrapped up this week, and that he thinks Conyers should resign if the allegations are true. He told CNN he believes Conyers' accusers.
But senior Democrats have not directly answered the question of whether they believe Conyers should step down as a result of the settlement and further accusations coming to light.
A reporter on Wednesday raised the issue with Congressional Black Caucus Chair Cedric Richmond, citing other high-profile men in entertainment and media who have resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct.
"Other men in other industries have faced similar accusations and gotten out of the way, resigned, stepped down far faster than he has," a reporter said.
"You would have to give me some examples," Richmond responded.
"Who elected them?" South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn said.
"I don't think they stepped down," said Richmond.
On Tuesday Richmond released a statement saying he supported Conyers' decision to temporarily step down from his position on the House Judiciary Commtitee, and that “any decision to resign from office before the ethics investigation is complete is John’s decision to make."
“The Congressional Black Caucus calls on Congress to treat all members who have been accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other crimes with parity, and we call on Congress and the public to afford members with due process as these very serious allegations are investigated," the statement continued.