Facing a surge of pressure from his female counterparts in the Senate, Sen. Al Franken has resigned amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
Franken, a Democratic junior senator from Minnesota, announced his resignation in an emotional appearance on the Senate floor on Thursday.
In the coming weeks, “I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate,” Franken said.
He added that “some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently.”
Franken has been accused of inappropriately touching seven women, including Leeann Tweeden, a morning news anchor on KABC radio in Los Angeles, who alleged last month that Franken groped and forcibly kissed her during a USO tour in 2006, before he became a senator. Tweeden, who released a photo of the former Saturday Night Live star apparently grabbing her breasts while she was sleeping, said she accepted Franken’s subsequent apology and didn’t think he had to step down.
But as more women came forward with misconduct allegations against Franken, 66, the Senate Ethics Committee launched an investigation into the second-term senator. On Wednesday, a seventh woman, a former Democratic congressional aide, alleged that Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006. Franken, who has been married to wife Franni Bryson since 1975, has repeatedly apologized for his inappropriate behavior, which he said was unintentional but “crossed a line” for some women.
In his resignation on Thursday, Franken spoke about the sexual misconduct allegations against President Donald Trump and embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, pointing out the “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.”
Trump and Moore have both denied the allegations against them.
“But this decision is not about me,” Franken continued. “It’s about the people of Minnesota. It’s become clear that I can’t both pursue the Ethics Committee process and at the same time remain an effective senator for them. Let me be clear: I may be resigning my seat but I am not giving up my voice.”
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Early on Wednesday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand became the first of Franken’s fellow Senate Democrats to call for him to step down.
“While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve,” Gillibrand wrote in a Facebook post.
Her call was soon echoed by at least seven other female Democratic senators, including Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Patty Murray of Washington, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Kamala Harris of California, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
On Thursday, several female senators who called for Franken’s resignation were seen wiping their eyes and nose as they hugged Franken after his speech, Politico’s Seung Min Kim reported.
Several male Democratic senators also called for Franken’s resignation on Wednesday, including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.
“I have listened to them. I have listened to my female colleagues, to women I work with and women in my life,” Brown said. “And I agree the time has come for Senator Franken to step aside.”