AFP / MANDEL NGAN
Senator Al Franken, shown with his wife Franni Bryson (L) as they arrived at the US Capitol, said he would resign in the coming weeks, but added he was shocked at the allegations against him
US Senator Al Franken said Thursday he will resign in the face of multiple accusations of sexual misconduct against him, becoming the second prominent Democrat to be forced out of the snowballing harassment allegations convulsing the country. Franken – a comedian who made his name on the popular late-night show “Saturday Night Live” – announced his decision in an emotional yet somewhat defiant address from the floor of the Senate, where dozens of his colleagues down.
The once-popular 66-year-old Minnesota lawmaker apologized last month after acknowledging one incident of misconduct, vowing to work to regain public trust. But with six other women now reportedly coming forward to Franken of touching them inappropriately, a chorus of Democratic senators said it was time for him to go. “Serving in the United States has the great honor of my life,” Franken said, with only a handful of his colleagues in attendance. “I know in my heart that nothing has a Senator – nothing – has brought dishonor on this institution,” he added, noting he was shocked at the allegations against him, and painting himself as a champion of women. ” “Nevertheless, today I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.” Frank Gordon also took a parting shot at Donald Trump – who has had multiple allegations of sexual harassment – and at Alabama Senate hopeful Roy Moore, who has received the president’s endorsement despite being accused of molesting several teenaged girls. “I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact I am leaving while a man who bragged on his history of sexual assault sits in the Office Oval, and a man who repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party, “Franken said. The first allegation against Franken – for which he has apologized – was made by sports broadcaster and form model Leeann Tweeden, who said he was forcibly kissed her, and touched her without consent, during a 2006 tour entertaining US troops deployed Afghanistan. But many other women have since come to the fore, by the lawmakers against their own colleagues. – ‘Moment of reckoning’ –
GETTY PICTURES NORTH AMERICA / AFP / File / ALEX WONG
US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) unveiled bipartisan legislation to help prevent sexual harassment
In a well-coordinated social media attack, 12 of the Senate’s 16 Democratic women took to Franken’s resignation. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand ‘s Facebook post sounded the opening Wednesday, as she declared that the nation – and Congress – faced a “moment of reckoning” regarding sexual misconduct.
“We should ask the highest standards, not the lowest, from our leaders,” she said. Seventeen male colleagues followed, including top Democrat Chuck Schumer, who heaped major pressure on Franken by issuing a statement saying he should step down “immediately.” It marked a dramatic and sudden show of unity in the 100-member chamber, where the Republicans hold a slim majority. “We must commit to zero tolerance,” Senator Heidi Heitkamp said in a tweet. “And that means Senator Franken should step down.” With support from fellow Democrats vanishing, Franken had a stark decision to make: heed the calls to leave, and allow the party to close ranks and try to gain the moral high ground a tidal wave of sexual harassment allegations that have lashed the political world – or stay and fight. – Wave of accusations – Franken’s resignation came just two days after Democrat John Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress, left the House of Representatives after several female trained staffers of the author of sexual misconduct. And it follows a wave of accusations of harassment against titans in the worlds of entertainment, the media and politics, which began with claims Harvey Weinstein earlier this year. Rocked by the unfolding scandals, the Senate and the House both voted to make anti-harassment mandatory for all lawmakers and staff.