Sen. Al Franken Says He Will Step Down Amid Sexual Misconduct Claims
Sen. Al Franken has announced his resignation from the U.S. Senate, after a series of women accused the Democrat of sexually inappropriate behavior that included groping and forcibly kissing them.
"Some of the allegations against me are simply not true," the Minnesota congressman said Thursday from the Senate floor. "I know who I really am ... Serving in the United States Senate has been the great privilege of my life."
His resignation is the most high-profile casualty of sexual misconduct accusations against politicians, including Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama and President Donald Trump.
During his speech, Franken mentioned both.
“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.
Franken said the accusations against him had made it impossible for him to do his job.
"This decision is not about me," he said. "It's about the people of Minnesota."
More than two dozen senators, many of them women, had called for the former comedian and Saturday Night Live cast member to step down after a seventh woman came forward on Wednesday. Politico reported that a former Democratic congressional aide said he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006. Franken denied those claims.
Later that day, his office announced he was conferring with his family and would make a statement on Thursday.
The senator's troubles began last month, when a woman held a press conference to say he bullied her into an unwanted kiss while rehearsing a USO tour for troops in Afghanistan.
Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles-based host at KABC-AM, said Franken also groped her while she slept on a military flight out of the war-torn country. She posted a photo of the entertainer with his hands over her breasts and mugging for the camera.
Franken apologized in an email statement: "The first thing I want to do is apologize: To Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There's more I want to say, but the first and most important thing — and if it's the only thing you care to hear, that's fine — is: I'm sorry."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, demanded an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee into Franken's actions. The Democrat pledged to fully cooperate.
But in the following weeks, more women emerged.
Lindsay Menz, 33, said Franken had grabbed her buttocks while she posed for a photo with her husband and father at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.
Franken "pulled me in really close, like awkward close, and as my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear," Menz said. "It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek."
The senator said he did not remember the photo, but felt "badly" that she felt disrespected.
"I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don't remember taking this picture," Franken said. "I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected."
That woman's claims were followed by two more who accused Franken of touching them inappropriately in 2007 and 2008.
Then an Army veteran told CNN that Franken had groped her on a USO tour before he was senator. Stephanie Kemplin said Franklin cupped her breast while she served in the Iraq War.
After the seventh woman stepped forward Wednesday, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a fellow Democrat, called for Franken's resignation, saying, "Enough is enough."
Her statement was followed by 34 other senators demanding that quit.