WASHINGTON (AP/WCCO) — Minnesota Democrat Al Franken, facing fresh allegations of sexual misconduct and vanishing support from fellow Democrats, appears to be on the brink of resigning from the Senate.
Franken is expected to deliver a speech on the Senate floor Thursday at 10:45 a.m. His office tweeted Wednesday evening that he had not made “a final decision” on resigning.
But a majority of the Senate’s Democrats called on the two-term lawmaker to quit after a woman emerged Wednesday morning saying he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006. Hours later, another woman said Franken inappropriately squeezed “a handful of flesh” on her waist while posing for a photo with her in 2009. That brought the number of women alleging misconduct by Franken to at least eight.
Franken, the former comedian who made his name on “Saturday Night Live,” faces a chorus of calls to step aside, and Democratic senators said they expected their liberal colleague to resign.
“Enough is enough,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable, and we, as elected leaders, should absolutely be held to a higher standard.”
Gillibrand was the first to call for Franken’s resignation on Wednesday, but a torrent of Democrats quickly followed.
“I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behavior,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state. “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.”
Though the writing appeared to be on the wall, Franken’s departure was not certain. A tweet posted Wednesday evening on Franken’s Twitter account said: “Senator Franken is talking with his family at this time and plans to make an announcement in D.C. tomorrow. Any reports of a final decision are inaccurate.”
Late in the day, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York added his voice.
“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,” Schumer said.
The resignation demands came in rapid succession even though Franken on Wednesday vehemently denied the new accusation that came from a former Democratic congressional aide, who said he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006.
The woman, who was not identified, told Politico that Franken pursued her after her boss had left and she was collecting her belongings. She said that she ducked to avoid his lips and that Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”
Franken, in a statement, said the idea he would claim such conduct as a right was “preposterous.”
But it was soon clear that his position had become untenable.
Fellow Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who spoke to Franken, wrote on Twitter, “I am confident he will make the right decision.”
The pressure only mounted Tuesday, when Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., resigned after numerous allegations of sexual misconduct. Rep Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., faces pressure to resign as well over allegations reported by Buzzfeed that he repeatedly propositioned a former campaign worker.
While Franken apparently is departing, Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore could be arriving, if he prevails in a Dec. 12 special election. Multiple women have accused the 70-year-old Moore of sexual misconduct with them when they were teens and he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s. If Moore is elected, it could create a political nightmare for Republicans, who have promised an ethics probe.
A national conversation about sexual harassment has intensified this fall after the heavily publicized case of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was accused of many acts of sexual misconduct, including rape, by actresses and other women. Just on Wednesday, Time magazine named as its person of the year the “silence breakers” — women who have come forward on sexual harassment.
Punishment has been swift for leaders in entertainment, media and sports while members of Congress have tried to survive the onslaught of allegations.
Franken already faced a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into previous claims by several other women that he groped them or sought to forcibly kiss them.
The allegations began in mid-November when Leeann Tweeden, now a Los Angeles radio anchor, accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour in Afghanistan.
Other allegations followed, including a woman who says Franken put his hand on her buttocks as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Two women told the Huffington Post that Franken squeezed their buttocks at political events during his first campaign for the Senate in 2008. A fourth woman, an Army veteran, alleged Franken cupped her breast during a photo on a USO tour in 2003.
Franken has apologized for his behavior but has also disputed some of the allegations.
Key events related to misconduct allegations against Franken
Key events related to allegations of sexual misconduct by Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken:
A Los Angeles radio anchor accuses Franken of forcibly kissing her while they were rehearsing during a 2006 USO tour. KABC anchor Leeann Tweeden also made public a photo that shows Franken smiling, with his hands over her chest as if to grope her, as she slept. Franken, who was a comedian at the time, released a statement saying he remembered the alleged kiss differently and he felt “disgusted with myself” over the photo. He apologized to Tweeden and to the public, and said he would cooperate with a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.
Some of his fellow Democrats condemned his behavior, but most stopped short of calling for him to step down. The allegation came amid a tide of sexual harassment and assault allegations against powerful figures in politics, media and entertainment since claims against movie producer Harvey Weinstein became public in early October.
Franken canceled a sold-out book festival appearance scheduled for Nov. 20, in Atlanta. He had been scheduled to speak and promote his book, “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.” The senator misses votes on the Senate floor and stays out of the public eye for days.
Several women who worked with Franken sign a statement supporting him.
CNN reports that a second woman is claiming Franken acted inappropriately. Lindsay Menz told CNN that Franken put his hand on her buttocks in 2010 while posing for a picture at the Minnesota State Fair. Franken was a senator at the time. He told CNN in a statement that he didn’t remember taking the photo, but he feels badly that she felt disrespected.
Two women who remained anonymous allege that Franken touched their buttocks during events for his first campaign for Senate. The women told the Huffington Post that the events happened in Minneapolis in 2007 and 2008. Franken says in a statement: “It’s difficult to respond to anonymous accusers, and I don’t remember those campaign events.”
Franken still has not appeared in the public eye. His aides have said he’s “spending time with his family and doing a lot of reflecting.” He released expanded statements to the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio saying he is a warm person who hugs people and has learned that “in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many.” He added that some women have found his embraces during greetings or photos inappropriate and he recognizes he needs to be more careful in those situations.
Franken tells a handful of Minnesota media outlets that he is “embarrassed and ashamed” amid allegations that he groped several women, but he looked forward to returning to work Monday and regaining voters’ trust. He says he was caught off-guard by the allegations against him.
Franken returns to work and says he knows he “let a lot of people down.” He vowed to try to regain the public’s trust, but dismissed a question about a possible resignation. He again promises to cooperate with a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.
A fifth woman comes forward with an allegation. Army veteran Stephanie Kemplin, of Maineville, Ohio, tells CNN that Franken groped her during a USO Christmas tour in the Middle East in 2003. Kemplin, who was deployed to Kuwait at the time, said Franken cupped her right breast when she stood next to him for a photo. Franken’s office released a statement saying the senator takes thousands of photos and has never intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct.
A woman identified only as a former elected official in New England tells Jezebel that Franken attempted to give her a “wet, open-mouthed kiss” onstage at an event in 2006. The woman said she appeared on Franken’s radio show Air America and after the interview, she tried to shake his hand but he took it and leaned in for a kiss. She said she turned her head and he kissed her on the cheek.
A Senate Ethics panel announces it has opened a preliminary inquiry into Franken.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, resigns, becoming the first Capitol Hill politician to lose his job amid a wave of sexual misconduct allegations in workplaces. He continued to deny allegations that he groped or sexually harassed women who worked for him.
A seventh woman accuses Franken of sexual misconduct. According to Politico, the woman, a former Democratic congressional aide, said Franken tried to kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006. The woman, who wasn’t identified, says that after her boss left and she was collecting her belongings, Franken tried to kiss her, saying: “It’s my right as an entertainer.” Franken categorically denies the allegation, saying the idea he would claim such conduct as a right as an entertainer was “preposterous.”
A group of female Democratic senators, and some of their male colleagues, call upon Franken to resign. Within an hour, his office released a statement saying: “Senator Franken will be making an announcement tomorrow. More details to come.”
An eighth woman comes forward to tell Politico that Franken groped her while posing for a photo at a party to celebrate Barack Obama’s first inauguration as president. Tina Dupuy told the publication that Franken grabbed a handful of flesh around her waist and squeezed at least twice.
Franken to make a public announcement.
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