- Sen. Al Franken resigned amid several accusations of sexual misconduct.
- The Minnesota Democrat has been accused of groping and forcibly kissing multiple women.
- During his speech announcing his resignation from the Senate, Franken called out President Donald Trump, who has himself been accused of sexual misconduct.
Democratic Sen. Al Franken announced his resignation from the Senate on Thursday amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
“Today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate,” he said during a speech on the chamber floor.
The Minnesota Democrat, first elected in 2008, said he was supportive of the national conversation concerning sexual misconduct that has taken place over the last few months.
“A couple months ago I felt that we had entered an important moment in the history of this country … We were finally beginning to listen to women,” he said. “Then the conversation turned to me.”
Franken said he was “shocked” and “upset” by the allegations that he groped and forcibly kissed multiple women. And he denied the veracity of some of the accusations, claiming “some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember differently.”
But, he said, “I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously.”
Franken took the opportunity to cast blame on others, including President Donald Trump and Roy Moore, the GOP’s Alabama Senate candidate, who have been accused of sexual harassment and abuse. Moore is facing multiple accusations of sexually abusing teenage girls while he was in his 30s.
“I of all people am aware that there is some irony that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault is in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” he said.
Franken’s widely expected resignation comes a day after at least 35 Democratic senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, publicly called on Franken to resign as he faced two new accusations of sexual misconduct.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and several other female Democratic senators led the calls for Franken’s resignation, describing the allegations against him as a pattern of mistreatment.
“Enough is enough,” Gillibrand, a prominent advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, wrote in a statement on Facebook.
By Wednesday afternoon, dozens of members of the Senate Democratic caucus had called on Franken to step down. A representative for Franken said the senator would make an announcement on Thursday, with speculation suggesting that he would bow to calls to resign.
There is widespread speculation that Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, also a Democrat, will name Lt. Governor Tina Smith as Franken’s interim successor. Dayton released a statement shortly after Franken’s announcement expressing sympathy with Franken’s accusers and calling the lawmaker “a personal friend” and “very smart, very hard-working, and very committed to Minnesota.”
“Events have unfolded quickly; thus, I have not yet decided on my appointment to fill this upcoming vacancy,” he wrote. “I expect to make and announce my decision in the next couple of days.”
A special election to replace the interim senator would be held in November 2018.
Accusations of forcible kissing and groping have mounted for weeks
Also on Wednesday, two additional women accused Franken of sexual misconduct, growing the total number of female accusers to eight. One woman, a former Democratic congressional aide, said Franken attempted to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006, three years before he became a senator. Franken denied this allegation, calling it “categorically false” and “preposterous.”
Franken insists he doesn’t remember meeting several of the women who have accused him of groping them during photo ops, and he says he has a different recollection of a 2006 incident with Leeann Tweeden, a California TV and radio host who says Franken groped and forcibly kissed her.
But the senator has said he’s “ashamed” by the allegations and apologised to the women who have felt disrespected by his behaviour.
“I know that I am going to have to be much more conscious in these circumstances – much more careful, much more sensitive,” Franken said during a press conference last week, adding, “It’s going to take a long time for me to regain people’s trust, but I hope that starting work today that I can start to do that.”
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