Politics

Cascade of Senate Democrats Call on Franken to Resign

Messages for Franken’s departure appear coordinated

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.,is facing new calls for his resignation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Nearly simultaneously, a series of Senate Democratic women issued calls for Democratic Sen. Al Franken to resign Wednesday morning including Patty Murray, a trusted lieutenant to Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and rising star Kamala Harris.

They were followed quickly by several Senate Democratic men and the head of the national Democratic Party.

“I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behavior,” Murray said in a statement. “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,” she said.

Murray was not alone.

“As elected officials, we should be held to the highest standards — not the lowest. The allegations against Sen. Franken describe behavior that cannot be tolerated. While he’s entitled to an Ethics Committee hearing, I believe he should step aside to let someone else serve,” New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said in a morning Tweet.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., third from right, joined other senators Wednesday in calling for Franken's resignation. She also appear that day with, from left, Reps. Walter Jones, R-N.C., Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., Gretchen Carlson, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on a new bipartisan bill to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., third from right, joined other senators Wednesday in calling for Franken's resignation. She also appear that day with, from left, Reps. Walter Jones, R-N.C., Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., Gretchen Carlson, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on a new bipartisan bill to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The message from Gillibrand was roughly simultaneous as a statement from Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii who serveson the Judiciary Committee with Franken.

“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,” Hirono said. “TIME Magazine, by naming ‘The Silence Breakers’ as their ‘Person 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.”

The calls for Franken to leave the Senate come amid an increasing number of allegations of inappropriate conduct toward women by the Minnesota senator.

Watch: Franken Previously Spoke on Floor About Sexual Harassment Protections, As Well As His USO Work With First Accuser

Fellow Democratic Sens. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Claire McCaskill of Missouri also called for Franken to step aside from his seat within 10 minutes of the original statements.

Shortly after, Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Donnelly of Indiana added their calls for their colleague to call it quits. Then came a tweet from Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez for Franken to leave. 

At a separate event, Gillibrand spoke about the situation.

“Obviously there were new allegations today. Enough is enough. This is a conversation we've been having for a very long time,” she said. “I think when we start having to talk the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation. You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK.”

 

About as much support at Franken could muster was a measured response from Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who said he does not believe Franken should resign until a review by the Senate Ethics Committee has run its course.

“Certainly, those who are ultimately guilty [of sexual misconduct] should step down,” Menendez told reporters. “But I worry that we’ve come to the moment when an accusation, in and of itself, is guilt.”

Menendez faced federal corruption charges in a high-profile trial in New Jersey up until last month. The judge declared a mistrial after the jury could not come to a decision.

Gillibrand said Franken is entitled to due process and the ethics investigation process but still said he should step aside.

“But I don’t think Congress is equipped. I don’t think they have the tools to deliver the kind of accountability the American people are searching for,” she said.

Former Fox News Host Gretchen Carlson, who was at the press conference to talk about ending arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, was optimistic after multiple Democratic women called for Franken’s resignation.

“I say it’s part of the tipping point, that this is not a partisan issue,” she said. “We need to face the facts that sexual harassment is apolitical.”

The calls for Franken to leave the Senate come amid an increasing number of allegations of inappropriate conduct toward women by the Minnesota senator.

The calls for Franken to resign came after a new accuser told Politico that Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after taping his radio show in 2006, telling her “It’s my right as an entertainer.”

Eric Garcia contributed to this story.

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