Franken resigning amid allegations
WASHINGTON • Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced Thursday he will resign from Congress in the coming weeks following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations and the collapse of support from his Democratic colleagues, a swift political fall for a once-rising Democratic star.
“I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice,” Franken said in the otherwise-hushed Senate chamber.
Franken quit just a day after new allegations brought the number of women alleging misconduct by him to at least eight. On Wednesday, one woman said he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006, an accusation he vehemently denied. Hours later, another woman said Franken inappropriately squeezed “a handful of flesh” on her waist while posing for a photo with her in 2009.
“I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonour on this institution,” Franken declared Thursday.
Franken is the latest to fall in the national wave of sexual harassment allegations that have brought down powerful men in Hollywood, the media and state capitals across the U.S. His announcement followed Tuesday’s resignation of Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House.
Franken, the former comedian who made his name on Saturday Night Live, originally sought to weather the allegations, disputing many of the specifics but apologizing to his accusers publicly. He promised he would cooperate with an ethics investigation and work to regain the trust of Minnesotans.
“Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” Franken said Thursday. “Others I remember quite differently.”
Still, he said he could not both co-operate with an investigation and fully carry out his duties.
Franken, 66, gained respect as a serious lawmaker and had even been mentioned in talk about the 2020 presidential race.
Franken pointedly noted he was being forced out while President Donald Trump — who has been accused of worse offences and bragged on a leaked Access Hollywood videotape of grabbing women by their genitalia — emerged unscathed. Trump has also endorsed Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct with them when they were teens and he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s.
His resignation means Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a fellow Democrat, will name a temporary replacement. The winner of a special election in November 2018 would serve through the end of Franken’s term in January 2021.
Dayton said after Franken’s remarks he has not yet decided on an appointment to fill the seat but expects to announce his decision in the next few days.
In the Senate chamber, several Democratic women, including some who called for Franken’s resignation, sat sombrely for Franken’s 11-minute speech and embraced him after. But they had lost patience with the growing tally of allegations and paved the path for Franken’s exit.
“Enough is enough,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York declared Wednesday. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable, and we, as elected leaders, should absolutely be held to a higher standard.”
Franken has acknowledged and apologized for some inappropriate behaviour, but he strongly denied the new accusation that came from a former Democratic congressional aide, who said he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006.
The woman, who was not identified, told Politico she ducked to avoid his lips but Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”
Franken said the idea he would claim such conduct as a right was “preposterous.”
Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota left the Capitol after speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, announcing he will resign in coming weeks following sexual misconduct allegations and a collapse of support from his Democratic colleagues.