WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michigan Rep. John Conyers says he is stepping aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee amid a congressional investigation into allegations he sexually harassed female staff members.

In a statement Sunday, the 88-year-old Conyers denied the allegations and said he would like to keep his leadership role on the panel. But he says he "cannot in good conscience" allow the charges to be an undue distraction to his House colleagues while the investigation is continuing.

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The House Ethics Committee is investigating Conyers after receiving allegations of sexual harassment and age discrimination involving staff members as well as using "official resources for impermissible personal purposes."

In his statement, Conyers said “I deny these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger. I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi defended Conyers as an "icon" for women's rights but declined to say whether the longtime lawmaker should resign.

Pelosi insisted that Conyers deserves "due process" and will "do the right thing" after Congress returns from Thanksgiving break on Monday.

Still, she called the accusations against Conyers a "big distraction."