UPDATED with more details: “Today I am announcing that, in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate,” Al Franken said from the floor of the Senate Thursday morning – one day after more than 30 Dem colleagues suddenly demanded he step down over allegations he had harassed women with unwanted touching and kissing.
“I, of all people, am aware there is some irony 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.
“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 about the way in which men’s actions affect them…I was excited for that conversation and hopeful it would result in real change that made life better for women across the country and in every part of our society. Then the conversation turned to me.”
Saying he had been “shocked” and “upset” by the allegations, Franken explained he “also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation. Because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously.” And, while continuing to insist that had been the right thing to do (in marked contrast to the stout denial strategy of others) Franken acknowledged “I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing thing I haven’t done.”
“Some of the allegations against me simply are not true. Others I remember very differently,” he said.
Franken scolded his colleagues for denying him a full Senate Ethics Committee hearing, calling it the proper venue to determine his fate in politics, and reminding those in the hall who, on Wednesday, demanded his immediate ouster, that he had volunteered to cooperate fully and accept the outcome of that investigation.
“An important part o the conversation we been having last few months is about how men abuse their power and privilege to hurt women. I am proud that during time in the senate I have used m power to be a champion of women, and that I have earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside every day. A very different picture of me has been painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I am.”
Franken acknowledged he will always regret “having to walk away from this job” but said he has faith in his staff, those who elected him, and “the progressive advocacy I have the privilege to be part of.”
As to the senate itself, Franken added, pointedly, “and I have faith – or at least hope – that member of this senate will find the political courage necessary to keep asking the tough questions, hold this administration accountable, and stand up for the truth.”
As he wrapped his speech, “Al Franken” began top-trending worldwide.
While stunning, coming from the floor of the U.S. Senate, Franken’s announcement wasn’t exactly a shocker, as media outlets began reporting his intention late Wednesday, and Thursday morning TV news talent began playing “I Said It First” as he headed to the Hill:
Source tells me Franken believes he can no longer serve effectively as a senator and is resigning
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) December 7, 2017
Franken got shoved to this moment one day earlier when his Dem colleagues suddenly stampeded him. Within just a few hours Wednesday, more than 30 Dem senators had demanded he relinquish the seat he’d held since 2008.
The rush coincided with GOP’s moving ever closer to Alabama’s candidate for the U.S. Senate Roy Moore, an accused pedophile, with that vote set for Tuesday. John Conyers having announced his immediate”retirement,” Dems needed Franken gone to occupy the moral high ground, TV news pundits noted. Some wagged their fingers at the Dems for having shoved out Franken without due process, while savaging Trump for attacking democratic institutions.
“It’s about winning, not about taking the right moral position,” scolded/Washington-explained one.
Franken said Wednesday afternoon that he would make a statement Thursday morning, after a seventh woman’s harassment claims against the former Saturday Night Live writer/performer.
Some media outlets reported late Wednesday he was going to announce his resignation, but his camp insisted no decision had yet been made.
Wednesday started with four female Dem senators calling for Franken to step down. By end of day the number had grown to more than 30, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer who said in a statement, “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.”
DNC chair Tom Perez echoed that sentiment:
“Sen. Al Franken should step down. Everyone must share the responsibility of building a culture of trust and respect for women in every industry and workplace, and that includes our party.”
Several more women had come forward Wednesday with claims the Minnesota senator had grabbed them or tried to force a kiss. An unnamed former Democratic Congressional aide told political web site Politico that Franken tried to force a kiss from her in 2006 at the end of one of Franken’s radio shows, claiming it was “my right as an entertainer.”
Franken called this latest allegation “categorically not true,” after previously mostly sticking to various iterations of a got-no-recollection-but-apologize response to earlier claims, again saying he would gladly cooperate with the Senate Ethics Committee probe.
Last month, radio host Leeann Tweeden was first to allege she had been harassed by Franken. Tweeden charged the former Saturday Night Live writer/performer with “mashing” his face up to hers and sticking his tongue in her mouth, when rehearsing a skit he’d written for their USO tour performance, in 2006. She was aware of the kissing bit, but said she agreed to the rehearsal kiss only reluctantly, so he would stop badgering her about it.
On the flight home from that USO tour, Franken had posed in a photo, with his hands hovering over her breasts as she was sleeping, which Tweeden produced during her presser, and on various TV programs.
Franken apologized, which Tweeden said she accepted.
“I wasn’t calling for his resignation, I wasn’t calling for his career to end,” Tweeden said the next day. ”I didn’t want any of that. I just wanted to shine the light and stand on the shoulders of these other women to go, ‘This is not right, this is not what should be happening in our society.’”
Later last month, female staff members of Saturday Night Live released a letter defending Franken amid the sexual harassment allegations against him.