As Al Franken’s sexual misconduct allegations mount, Democrats call for his resignation
It started with six female senators, but by mid-afternoon Wednesday, many Democratic leaders had joined together to call for Sen. Al Franken’s resignation.
Franken, D-Minn., faces a Senate Ethics Committee investigation after multiple women alleged that he groped them or sought to forcibly kiss them. The allegations started after Los Angeles radio anchor Leeann Tweeden accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour.
Franken’s office said he will make an announcement on Thursday. He has already apologized for his behavior but disputed some allegations.
Here’s what key Democrats have said about Franken, 66, in their calls for his resignation.
In a simple tweet, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Wis., said it was “best” for Franken to resign.
Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo., said he expects Franken to “make an announcement” on Thursday and is “confident he’ll do the right thing and step aside.”
“Sexual harassment and misconduct are never acceptable,” Bennett said.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, acknowledged that there is “a serious problem in this country with sexual harassment and assault – in Congress, in Hollywood, in business, in the military – everywhere” in a statement. He also praised those who “had the bravery to come forward.”
“I have listened to them. I have listened to my female colleagues, to women I work with and women in my life. And I agree the time has come for Senator Franken to step aside,” Brown said.
He encouraged the Ethics committee to continue with its investigation as well.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Franken’s alleged actions are “disturbing, egregious and demonstrate a pattern of serious misconduct and abuse.”
“It is time for Senator Franken to resign from office,” she said.
The first male senator to join the calls for Franken’s resignation, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania said on Twitter that he agreed with his colleagues on the matter.
“We can’t just believe women when it’s convenient,” Casey said.
Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., called for Franken’s resignation in a statement which he posted online.
“I believe there is more work to be done to protect victims of sexual harassment and to reform the system of filing and settling harassment claims in Congress,” Donnelly said, adding that he would like to ensure taxpayers are not footing the bill for settlements made by members of Congress.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., called for Franken to resign as she is “deeply disturbed” by the allegations against him.
“To all those across America who have come forward to share their stories over the past few months: thank you. Your courage and strength in driving this long-overdue national conversation is awe-inspiring,” Duckworth said in a statement.
“This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans, it’s about our society. It’s about how we are as a people and the kind of country we want our daughters – and our sons – to grow up in.”
“As national leaders, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard – and we must lead by example to ensure every person is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve,” she continued. “This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans, it’s about our society. It’s about how we are as a people and the kind of country we want our daughters – and our sons – to grow up in.”
“Senator Franken’s behavior was wrong. He has admitted to what he did. He should resign from the Senate,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on Twitter.
In a lengthy Facebook post, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she was “shocked and disappointed” to hear of the allegations against Franken, someone who she called a “friend” and someone she was “fond of personally.”
“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,” Gillibrand said.
“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,” she added.
Gillibrand contended that the allegations against Franken are “not the same as the criminal conduct alleged against Roy Moore, or Harvey Weinstein, or President Trump,” but “it is still unquestionably wrong, and should not be tolerated by those of us who are privileged to work in public service.”
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., called on Franken to step down on Twitter.
“Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere,” she said. “I believe the best thing for Senator Franken to do is step down.”
On Twitter, Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., slammed Franken for what she said was “a pattern of egregious and unacceptable behavior toward women.”
“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 do to prevent sexual harassment, misconduct and assault,” Hassan said in calling for Franken’s resignation.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said she was “very concerned and disappointed” by Franken’s alleged actions and applauded the “brave” women who came forward with their stories. She called for Franken to “step down.”
“I’ve said before that for decades as a country, we have been far too tolerant and dismissive of past allegations,” Heitkamp said. “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,” she added.
The junior senator from Hawaii, Mazie Hirono called on Franken to resign but said she “struggled with this decision because he’s been a good Senator,” and she considers him to be a friend.
“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,” Hirono said. “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.”
“While the facts from case to case can differ, and while there are sound reasons for weighing evidence in such cases in a deliberate and carefully considered process, Senator Franken’s situation has become untenable,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement.
He called on Franken to “step aside” as he said “even a prompt Ethics Committee investigation and recommendations will not come soon enough.”
“I hope as a nation that we are beginning to come to terms with the systematic problem of sexual harassment and assault, but we still have a long way to go,” he said.
Sen. Claire McCaskill simply tweeted Wednesday, “Al Franken should resign.”
The Missouri Democrat has championed numerous initiatives aimed at tackling sexual assault and misconduct throughout her tenure in the Senate.
Rep. Betty McCollum said the allegations against Franken “make it impossible for him to be an effective Senator for Minnesota.”
“When he makes his announcement tomorrow, I have every confidence that he will do the right thing for Minnesota and our country,” she said in a statement.
Like Franken, McCollum is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said that while Franken “has the right to continue to seek a process through the Ethics Committee,” he believes “the best course of action for him right now is to step down, as I expect he will do tomorrow.”
“The increasing number of women coming forward suggests a pattern of repeated harassment and unacceptable behavior that is impossible to ignore,” Murphy said.
Patty Murray, the Democratic senior senator from Washington, said she is “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,” she said.
“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,” Murray said.
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said on Twitter that Franken should leave his office.
“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 said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said the “right thing” for Franken to do is resign.
The former 2016 Democratic presidential candidate said, “We are now at a crossroads in American culture. And it is an important one.”
“The way we treat women in our country has been abysmal in almost every way.”
“The way we treat women in our country has been abysmal in almost every way. We are finally addressing the issue of sexual harassment, and we need to get it right,” Sanders said in his statement. “But the conversation we are having now is only the tip of the iceberg. It needs to be an ongoing movement of women and men that includes a national discussion about sexism, sexual harassment, objectification, inequality and abuse of power.”
“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,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
In calling for Franken’s resignation, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said, “Sexual harassment is unacceptable.”
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., encouraged Franken to “step down” and “send a strong message that sexual misconduct is unacceptable in any setting.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., spoke with Franken and implored him to resign, Fox News has learned.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., simply said, “Given what we have learned in recent weeks, I expect Senator Franken to step aside.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., predicted Wednesday afternoon that Franken would announce his resignation on Thursday.
“It is the right thing to do given this series of serious allegations,” Wyden said.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.