Minnesota Sen. Al Franken will make an announcement today amid a chorus of calls for him to resign from the U.S. Senate over multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
Several of his fellow Democratic Senate colleagues recommended on Wednesday that it’s time for him to step down after two new claims of inappropriate behaviour surfaced.
One woman said Franken forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006 after a taping of his radio show. Another woman said he inappropriately squeezed “a handful of flesh” on her waist while posing for a photo with her early in 2009. That brings the number of women alleging misconduct by Franken to at least eight.
Minnesota Public Radio reported on Wednesday that Franken would resign. However, Franken’s office said in an email that no final decision had been made and that the senator was still discussing the issue with his family.
“Enough is enough,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. “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.”
Gillibrand was the first to call for Franken’s resignation on Wednesday, but a torrent of Democrats quickly followed.
‘Shocked and appalled’
“I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behaviour,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state. “It’s clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time. It’s time for him to step aside.”
Late in the day, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York added his voice.
“I consider Senator Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has a higher obligation to his constituents and the Senate, and he should step down immediately,” Schumer said.
Senator Franken is talking with his family at this time and plans to make an announcement in D.C. tomorrow. Any reports of a final decision are inaccurate.
Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez weighed in, too, asking Franken to resign and saying, “Sexual misconduct, harassment and assault have no place in the Democratic Party, the United States Congress, the White House or anywhere.”
The resignation demands came in rapid succession even though Franken on Wednesday vehemently denied the new accusation that came from a former Democratic congressional aide, who said he tried to forcibly kiss her.
The former staffer told Politico she ducked to avoid Franken’s lips. The political journalism website quoted her as saying Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”
Franken, in a statement, said the idea he would claim such conduct as a right was “preposterous.”
Franken’s career before becoming a senator in July 2009 included being a writer and performer on Saturday Night Live. He left the show in 1995 and went on to become an author, radio host and progressive political activist.
If he leaves the Senate, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a fellow Democrat, would appoint someone to take his place, meaning the Democrats do not risk losing the seat for now. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate.