Sen. Al Franken resigns amid sexual misconduct allegations
(KMSP) - In a speech delivered from the floor of the United States Senate, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced Thursday he will resign in the coming weeks amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. He did not provide an official date of his resignation.
Gov. Mark Dayton must now appoint someone to take Franken's seat until 2018. The seat will be on the ballot in the November 2018 election. The winner will serve out the rest of Franken's term until 2020, when they would once again be up for re-election.
Dayton says he has not yet decided on who he will appoint to fill the upcoming vacancy.
Eight women have now accused Franken of unwanted touching. In his resignation speech, Franken said: "Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently."
Franken said he was prepared to cooperate fully with a Senate ethics investigation and was confident in what the outcome would have been.
Fellow Minnesotan Sen. Amy Klobuchar called Franken's resignation "the right decision."
"In every workplace in America, including the U.S. Senate, we must confront the challenges of harassment and misconduct," Klobuchar said in a statement. "Nothing is easy or pleasant about this, but we all must recognize that our workplace cultures--and the way we treat each other as human beings--must change."
A majority of Senate Democrats called on the two-term lawmaker to resign on Wednesday after two new allegations against Franken surfaced.
HISTORY OF FRANKEN ALLEGATIONS
The allegations began in mid-November when Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles radio host, accused Franken of forcibly kissing her while they were rehearsing for a USO tour skit in 2006. She also released a photo of Franken grinning and reaching for her chest, as if to grope her, while she slept on a military aircraft during the tour.
In a letter to Tweeden, Franken apologized to the radio host. Franken said he remembered their encounter differently, but was "ashamed that my actions ruined that experience for you."
Four other women have also accused Franken of unwanted touching.
In an article on POLITICO published Wednesday, an unnamed Democratic congressional aide said Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006. When she avoided his kiss, Franken reportedly told her: "It's my right as an entertainer."
Franken denied the accusation, calling it "categorically not true."
"The idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous," the senator said in a statement.
A few hours later, a second woman accused Franken of groping her while they were taking a photo together at a Media Matters party in 2009. In an article for The Atlantic, Tina Dupuy wrote that Franken "immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh. I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice."
Franken has not specifically addressed that allegation.
Stephanie Kremplin, a U.S. Army veteran, told CNN Franken cupped her breast during a photo opportunity when he was visiting American troops in the Middle East with the USO in December 2003.
Lindsay Menz of Frisco, Texas also told CNN Franken grabbed her buttocks while they were taking a photo together at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.
Two unnamed women told the Huffington Post that Franken grabbed their buttocks during separate incidents at campaign events in 2007 and 2008.
In response to the allegations, Franken repeatedly said he has met thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs. He said he did not remember taking photos with the three women that have accused him of grabbing them, but, at a press conference, said "one is too many who feel I have done something disrespectful and that I hurt them and for that I am very sorry."
Former female staffers and women who worked with Franken during his time on Saturday Night Live issued statements of support for the senator, affirming that he had always treated them with respect.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR RESPONDS TO FRANKEN'S RESIGNATION
"Today Senator Franken acknowledged that he could no longer serve in the Senate and resigned. As he and I discussed yesterday, this is the right decision. Senator Franken has worked for years on behalf of the people of Minnesota and he has been a leader on issues that are fundamental to Americans' lives, including education, privacy, healthcare and mental health. He has been a friend to me and to many in our state.
As the women who have come forward to tell their stories across America have made clear, sexual harassment is never acceptable. In every workplace in America, including the U.S. Senate, we must confront the challenges of harassment and misconduct. Nothing is easy or pleasant about this, but we all must recognize that our workplace cultures--and the way we treat each other as human beings--must change.
For Franni, the Franken family, Senator Franken's friends and supporters in our state, it's a very tough day. I want you to know I remain as committed as ever to working together and standing up for people, for common decency, and for our democracy during an incredibly difficult and divisive time in our country. And as we go forward together, we must never forget the words of Senator Paul Wellstone, whom Senator Franken quoted in part today, 'Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people's lives."
STATEMENT FROM GOV. MARK DAYTON AND LT. GOV. TINA SMITH
Full statement from Gov. Mark Dayton:
"I extend my deepest regrets to the women, who have had to endure their unwanted experiences with Senator Franken. As a personal friend, my heart also goes out to Al and his family during this difficult time.
"In other respects, Al Franken has been an outstanding Senator. He has been, as Senator Paul Wellstone used to say, 'A Senator from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.' He is very smart, very hard-working, and very committed to Minnesota. I wish him well in his future endeavors.
"Events have unfolded quickly; thus, I have not yet decided on my appointment to fill this upcoming vacancy. I expect to make and announce my decision in the next couple of days.
"I will have no further comments on this subject until that time."
Full statement from Lt. Gov. Tina Smith:
"Senator Franken has been a servant to the people of Minnesota, and a champion for working people during his time in the Senate. I thank him for his service. On this difficult day, I am holding Senator Franken, his family, and those who have worked beside him over the last decade to make this country a better place, in my thoughts.
"I also am thinking today about the many women around the country who have come forward in recent months to share their stories about sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can never be tolerated in our politics, our businesses, or anywhere else.
"Now, it is on all of us to come together and make the progress necessary to live up to the values we believe in. Governor Dayton and I remain committed to ensuring that Minnesota is a place where everyone has the opportunity to realize their full potential."