Com­bat­ive Franken re­signs from Se­nate

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Alan Fram

WASHINGTON» Sen. Al Franken, a ris­ing po­lit­i­cal star only weeks ago, re­luc­tantly an­nounced Thurs­day he’s re­sign­ing from Congress, suc­cumb­ing to a tor­rent of sex­ual harassment al­le­ga­tions and evap­o­rat­ing sup­port from fel­low Democrats. But he fired a de­fi­ant part­ing shot at Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and other Repub­li­cans he said have sur­vived much worse ac­cu­sa­tions.

“I, of all peo­ple, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leav­ing while a man who has bragged on tape about his his­tory of sex­ual as­sault sits 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,” Franken said.

The 66-year-old Min­nesotan, a former “Satur­day Night Live” co­me­dian who made a suc­cess­ful leap to be­com­ing a lib­eral U.S. se­na­tor, an­nounced his de­ci­sion in a sub­dued Se­nate cham­ber three weeks af­ter the first ac­cu­sa­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct emerged but just a day af­ter most of his Demo­cratic col­leagues pro­claimed he had to go. His re­marks un­der­scored the bit­ter­ness many in the party feel toward a GOP that they say has made a po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion to tol­er­ate Trump and Alabama GOP Se­nate can­di­date Roy Moore, who have been ac­cused of sex­ual as­saults that they’ve de­nied.

In largely un­apolo­getic re­marks that lasted 11 min­utes, Franken said “all women de­serve to be heard” but as­serted that some ac­cu­sa­tions against him were un­true. He called him­self “a cham­pion of women” dur­ing his Se­nate ca­reer who fought to im­prove peo­ple’s lives.

“Even on the worst day of my po­lit­i­cal life, I feel like it’s all been worth it,” he said.

Franken’s de­par­ture, which he said would oc­cur in “com­ing weeks,” made him the lat­est fig­ure from pol­i­tics, jour­nal­ism and the arts to be top­pled since Oc­to­ber. That’s when the first ar­ti­cles ap­peared re­veal­ing sex­ual abuse al­le­ga­tions against Hol­ly­wood ti­tan Har­vey We­in­stein and en­er­giz­ing the #MeToo move­ment in which women have named men they say abused or ha­rassed them.

Demo­cratic Min­nesota Gov. Mark Day­ton will name a tem­po­rary suc­ces­sor, who will serve un­til a spe­cial elec­tion next Novem­ber.

Franken’s com­ments ap­pended a melan­choly coda to the po­lit­i­cal ca­reer of the one-time TV fun­ny­man who be­came one of his party’s most pop­u­lar and bel­li­cose lib­er­als.

Just two days ear­lier, Rep. John Cony­ers, D-Mich., a civil rights hero who had been the House’s longest­serv­ing cur­rent mem­ber, re­signed af­ter fac­ing sex­ual harassment al­le­ga­tions of his own. The two de­par­tures un­der­scored the party’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to show no tol­er­ance for such be­hav­ior, a strat­egy that can bring stun­ningly fast con­clu­sions to po­lit­i­cal ca­reers but that party lead­ers be­lieve could give them high moral ground on a sub­ject that has shown no sign of fad­ing.

On a 2005 au­dio tape re­leased shortly be­fore last year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Trump is heard talk­ing about grab­bing women, and sev­eral women ac­cused him of sex­ual as­saults. Women in Alabama have ac­cused Moore of un­wanted sex­ual con­tact and pur­su­ing ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s dur­ing the 1970s.

Asked about Franken’s com­ment about him on Thurs­day, Trump merely replied, “I didn’t hear it, sorry.”

At least eight women ac­cused Sen. Al Franken of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

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