MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After a second woman accused Senator Al Franken of grabbing her during a photo at the Minnesota State Fair, there are renewed calls for an ethics committee investigation.
But in a statement to WCCO on Tuesday, Franken says he is not resigning.
Senator Franken’s Deputy Chief of Staff tells us, “He is spending time with his family and is doing a lot of reflecting. And he knows he has to regain the trust of Minnesotans.” And that “He feels terribly that he has let so many people down and is spending time with his family.”
Franken remains in seclusion as the political firestorm against him grows. In the six days since two women have accused Senator Franken of inappropriately groping them, the Senator has not made any public appearances.
Political analyst Larry Jacobs says that could be a mistake.
“Senator Franken cannot hide. He has got to come out in public and address these charges and how he is going to respond to them,” Jacobs said.
Franken continues to receive support from former female colleagues. The latest is a list of 36 Saturday Night Live employees, including former stars Laraine Newman and Jane Curtin, expressing support for Franken, saying “After years of working with him, we would like to acknowledge that not one of us ever experienced any inappropriate behavior.”
The letter echoes a similar show of support from 14 former Senate staffers. Since his convincing 2014 re-election win, Franken has emerged as a political force, most recently as a forceful critic of the Trump administration.
“If Senator Franken stays in the United States Senate, he is clearly politically diminished. He is no longer on the list to run for President, he is no longer going to be a leading spokesperson for progressive in the Democratic Party,” Jacobs said.
Senator Franken’s political action committee that has raised millions for Democrats across the country is also under fire. A number of prominent Democrats, including New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, have either returned or donated the Franken contributions.
On Tuesday, the Minnesota Republican Party called on Congressman and Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Tim Walz to return money he has received from Franken. WCCO-TV reached out to Congressman Walz and late Tuesday afternoon, his spokesperson got back to us and said Walz has no plans to return the money at this time. He did, however, release the following statement:
Over the past few days, like many Minnesotans, I’ve spent a lot of time processing the allegations against Senator Franken. Many of us were shocked by the first allegation. Then, there was another one. Sometimes, you need time and space to process difficult things like this.
I said last week that Senator Franken’s resignation should be on the table. I still feel that way. I’ve heard from many folks who think that the ethics committee is a very important step that gives victims a safe place to come forward. Right now, that’s how I feel as well.
I think Minnesotans want to hear from Senator Franken. We have seen statements from his office, but a lot of us would like to hear directly from him on this issue.
One thing that has become exceedingly clear over the course of the past few weeks is that our current systems for allowing people to come forward and speak up are not working. We need structural changes in how our institutions handle sexual harassment and assault to truly move forward here.
President Trump was also asked about Franken on Tuesday. The President said, “As far as Franken is concerned he’s going to have to speak for himself, I’d rather have him speak for himself.”