Sen. Al Franken announced Thursday that he will resign from the Senate amid a growing number of women accusing the Democrat of kissing, groping and touching them without their consent.
Franken, who said some of the allegations were not true and others he “remembered differently,” was considered by many to be a “rising star” in the Democratic party that might have run for president in 2020.
“In the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate,” he said on the Senate floor.
“I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” Franken said in reference to President Donald Trump and Republican Senate hopeful Roy Moore.
It’s believed that Democratic Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint Tina Smith, his lieutenant governor, to hold Franken’s seat, Politico reported multiple anonymous sources close to Dayton as saying.
Dayton released an official statement after Franken announced his plan to resign, saying he extends “his deepest regrets to the women” and that his “heart goes out to Al and his family during this difficult time.”
The governor added he hasn’t decided who he will appoint to take Franken’s seat in the Senate.
Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum tweeted that “today is a sad day” for her state.
Leeann Tweeden was the first woman to level accusations of sexual misconduct against the Minnesota Democrat, writing in a blog post that Franken “forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo” of him touching her breasts while she was asleep.
After Tweeden, other women have come forward, with one alleging to CNN that Franken grabbed her butt in 2010 during a picture, while another “former elected official in New England” told Jezebel that Franken gave her a “wet, open-mouthed kiss” on her cheek without her consent.
And then on Wednesday, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., all called on Franken to step down after another woman accused Franken of sexual misconduct in an account to Politico.
“I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve,” Gillibrand said.
The demands came in rapid succession after Franken on Wednesday vehemently denied a new sexual misconduct accusation that came from a former Democratic congressional aide that he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006.
The Minnesota Democrat said in a statement that the allegation, reported by Politico, was “categorically not true.”
The woman, who was not identified by name, said Franken pursued her after her boss had left and she was collecting her belongings. She said she ducked to avoid his lips, and that Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”
Franken, in his statement, said the idea he would claim such conduct as a right as an entertainer was “preposterous.”
The tide quickly turned against Franken Wednesday morning. Fellow Democrats, who had previously been cautious, at first respected Franken’s right to cooperate with an ethics probe. But the steady stream of allegations has female Democrats fed up.
“I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behavior,” Murray said. “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.”
But still, some Democrats have been left wondering: Were we too slow to call out Franken?
Franken was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008 and re-elected in 2014. According to his Senate website, he currently sits on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee; the Judiciary Committee; the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the Committee on Indian Affairs.
Before going into politics, Franken was a writer, performer and producer on “Saturday Night Live.” He won three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy, Variety or Music Series for his work on “SNL” and another for “The Paul Simon Special” in 1978.
His resignation comes after John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives, retired from his office after multiple aides said he sexually harassed them. Other famous men, including director Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and journalists Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer have all lost their jobs following accusations of sexual misconduct —while Roy Moore, a Republican running for Alabama’s open Senate seat, said he will continue to run after multiple women alleged he made unwanted sexual advances towards them while they were teenagers.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
This breaking story will be updated.