Senate Democrats call on Al Franken to resign
(KMSP) - At least 11 Democratic women in the U.S. Senate, and several of their male colleagues, are calling on Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota to resign after the latest allegation of sexual misconduct was published Wednesday morning. As the calls for his resignation mounted, Sen. Franken's office confirmed, "Senator Franken will be making an announcement tomorrow" in Washington.
The list of female Democrats in the Senate calling for Franken to resign includes: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington, Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein of California, Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has not called on Franken to resign, but released the following statement: "Sexual harassment is unacceptable. This morning I spoke with Senator Franken and, as you know, he will be making an announcement about his future tomorrow morning. I am confident he will make the right decision."
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote on Twitter, "I expect that Senator Franken will announce his resignation tomorrow. It is the right thing to do given this series of serious allegations."
FRANKEN DENIES ALLEGATION IN POLITICO STORY
In the latest allegation, a woman told POLITICO that Franken tried to forcibly kiss her following a taping of his radio show in 2006. A former Democratic congressional aide, who was not identified by POLITICO, said Franken pursued her after her boss left the studio. When she tried to avoid him, she claims he told her: "It's my right as an entertainer."
Franken, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by several other women, denied the latest accusation.
"This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous," Franken said in a statement. "I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation."
A second woman came forward with an accusation against Franken Wednesday afternoon. In an article for The Atlantic, writer Tina Dupuy said Franken groped her while they were taking a photo together at a Media Matters party in 2009.
"We posed for the shot. He immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh. I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice," she wrote.
Franken has not responded to this latest accusation.
STATEMENTS FROM DEMOCRATIC WOMEN IN SENATE
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY):
"Senator Franken Should Step Aside
"I have been shocked and disappointed to learn over the last few weeks that a colleague I am fond of personally has engaged in behavior towards women that is unacceptable. I consider Senator Franken to be a friend and have enjoyed working with him in the Senate in our shared fight to help American families.
"But this moment of reckoning about our friends and colleagues who have been accused of sexual misconduct is necessary, and it is painful. We must not lose sight that this watershed moment is bigger than any one industry, any one party, or any one person.
"The pervasiveness of sexual harassment and the experience women face every day across America within the existing power structure of society has finally come out of the shadows. It is a moment that we as a country cannot afford to ignore.
"While a lot of the media focus has been on high-profile cases with powerful leaders in politics, Hollywood, and the media business, we must recognize that this is happening every day to women everywhere, up and down the economic ladder. For many women, including hourly workers in offices, stores, hotels, restaurants, bars, or on farms, with bosses who aren't famous enough to be held accountable publicly, calling out their abusers is still not an option. To achieve lasting change, we will need to fight this everywhere on behalf of everyone by insisting on accountability and working to bring more women into leadership in each industry to fundamentally shift the culture.
"In politics, of course, the problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault is not limited to any one party. There have been Democrats and Republicans accused of misconduct, and I have no doubt that there will be more because Congress is not immune to this scourge. The question is what are we willing to do about it when courageous women and men come forward.
"We have to rise to the occasion, and not shrink away from it, even when it's hard, especially when it's hard. That is what this larger moment is about. So, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on Senator Franken's behavior. Enough is enough. The women who have come forward are brave and I believe them. While it's true that his behavior is not the same as the criminal conduct alleged against Roy Moore, or Harvey Weinstein, or President Trump, it is still unquestionably wrong, and should not be tolerated by those of us who are privileged to work in public service.
"As the mother of two young boys, we owe it to our sons and daughters to not equivocate, but to offer clarity. We should not have to be explaining the gradations between sexual assault, harassment and unwelcome groping. And what message do we send to our sons and daughters when we accept gradations of crossing the line? None of it is ok and none of it should be tolerated.
"We should demand the highest standards, not the lowest, from our leaders, and we should fundamentally value and respect women. Every workplace in America, including Congress, needs to have a strong process and accountability for sexual harassment claims, and I am working with others to address the broken and opaque system in Congress.
"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.
"In the wake of the election of President Trump, in just the last few months, our society is changing, and I encourage women and men to keep speaking up to continue this progress. At this moment, we need to speak hard truths or lose our chance to make lasting change."
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO):
"Al Franken should resign."
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH):
"It is clear that Al Franken has engaged in a pattern of egregious and unacceptable behavior toward women. He should resign. We are experiencing a change in our culture that is long overdue, and we must continue working to empower all women and do everything we can to prevent sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault."
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA):
"Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere. I believe the best thing for Senator Franken to do is step down."
Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
"It's clear the American people don't look lightly on these kinds of actions, no matter who they're committed by, and the number of complaints against Senator Franken is a concern. I think resignation is the right thing for him to do."
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA):
"I'm shocked and appalled by Senator Franken's behavior. 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.
"For some time I have talked about returning the word respect to our language, to our actions, and to our politics. That has to start at the top. We must lead by example.
"Respecting women as equals and not as objects is critical. Sexual harassment, or assault, or in any way using your power to demean women cannot be tolerated. I want my colleagues, my staff, my constituents, and especially my granddaughters to know that is not acceptable.
"It's time for us as elected representatives to hold ourselves to a higher standard, to set an example, and to live a set of values that is truly representative and worthy of the Congress, our democracy, and our great country."
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
"Today, I am calling on my colleague Al Franken to step aside. I've struggled with this decision because he's been a good Senator and I consider him a friend. But that cannot excuse his behavior and his mistreatment of women
"TIME Magazine, by naming 'The Silence Breakers' as their 'People of the Year,' is recognizing what women have always known: there are men among us who use their positions of power and influence to manipulate, harass, and assault women. What is new here is the women.
"We are, all of us, speaking out, naming names and demanding that the harassers take responsibility for their behavior. I am proud of each of the women who has come forward, and heartened by the changing climate that has received their stories with acceptance and compassion.
"My hope is that this moment for a cultural change will result in women no longer being viewed as objects or toys, but recognized for their abilities and achievements. As regular human beings. Women have endured this behavior, which for too long has been ignored and tolerated.
"But no longer. We can only create a culture where women are respected as equals if we all step forward and be part of the change by holding everyone, especially our leaders, accountable."
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
"I believe it is best for Senator Franken to resign."
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
"Sexual harassment is unacceptable. I believe Senator Franken should do the right thing and resign."
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
"I'm very concerned and disappointed by the behavior detailed in the allegations that continues to come out. It's brave of these women to come forward. We must commit to zero tolerance - which is where I believe we as a country and Congress should be - and that means Senator Franken should step down. Congress and the federal government set an example for the nation, and we need to hold ourselves to the highest standards to encourage others in every industry to follow our lead.
"I've said before that for decades as a country, we have been far too tolerant and dismissive of past allegations. In recent months, women have been courageously stepping out of the shadows to tell their stories of sexual harassment and abuse. That's a huge step. We need to stand by them and all women to empower them to come forward and speak out, prevent these actions, and impose serious consequences when they do happen."
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
"Senator Franken's actions are disturbing, egregious, and demonstrate a pattern of serious misconduct and abuse. It is time for Senator Franken to resign from office."
MALE COLLEAGUES, DNC CHAIR ECHO CALL FOR RESIGNATION
Several male Democratic senators joined in calling for Franken's resignation. That list includes: Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.
Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez also called on Franken to resign.
"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," Perez wrote on Twitter.
HISTORY OF FRANKEN ALLEGATIONS
Radio host Leeann Tweeden was the first woman to come forward, accusing Franken of kissing and groping her while on a USO tour in 2006. She also released a photo of Franken grinning and reaching for her chest, as if to grope her, while she slept on a military aircraft during the tour.
Four other women have also accused Franken of unwanted touching.
Stephanie Kremplin, a U.S. Army veteran, told CNN Franken cupped her breast during a photo opportunity when he was visiting American troops in the Middle East with the USO in December 2003.
Lindsay Menz of Frisco, Texas also told CNN Franken grabbed her buttocks while they were taking a photo together at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.
Two more women, whose identities were not revealed, told the Huffington Post that Franken grabbed their buttocks during separate incidents at campaign events in 2007 and 2008.