U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., announced Thursday he will resign from the U.S. Senate “in the coming weeks,” becoming the highest-profile politician accused of sexual harassment to leave his job since Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse allegations spurred a speaking-out movement.
The announcement came a day after his support within the Democratic caucus collapsed. In total, 32 Democratic senators cast support for his resignation, including the two top Senate Democrats and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
“Let me be clear. I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice. I will continue to stand up for the things I believe in as a citizen and as an activist,” Franken said in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday morning. “But Minnesotans deserve a Senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the challenges they face every day.”
In a statement calling for Franken’s resignation on Wednesday, Murphy said that given the “increasing number of women coming forward,” a fact that is “impossible to ignore,” Franken should step down, even though he has a right to continue through the chamber’s Select Committee on Ethics.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, declined to comment on Franken’s behavior before the announced resignation, but he released a statement shortly after Franken spoke on Thursday.
“Senator Franken made the right decision,” Blumenthal said. “The conversation about sexual harassment and assault must continue vigorously, and so should meaningful action against it.”
The accusations against Franken included an alleged incident in which he forcibly kissed Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden during a USO tour before he was elected. In addition, multiple women have come forward to accuse Franken of groping them while posing for photographs.
In the midst of many sexual abuse allegations, including ongoing accusations against President Donald Trump as well as Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for the special Senate election in Alabama, Franken took the time during his speech to highlight the irony of his impending resignation.
“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.
David Jiang ’19, a long-term Minnesota resident who volunteered for Franken’s 2014 campaign, emphasized that although he finds the senator’s behavior “deplorable” and thinks that he was right in resigning, Franken was a great senator who did much for Minnesotans.
He also noted the irony of the situation.
“I do not want a double standard on either side of the aisle,” Jiang said. “Al Franken admitted to this behavior, whereas Trump and the White House have never admitted to this behavior.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, said in an email to the News that she commends the “courageous women who came forward to share their stories.” She noted that Franken made the “right choice” to resign and said that in an office that serves the American people, there can be “zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior.”
In addition, DeLauro called for new policies and processes to deal with behavior such as sexual abuse.
“Looking ahead, Congress must institute a process for dealing with unacceptable behavior that is expeditious, deliberative, transparent and fair,” DeLauro said. “As an institution that serves the public, Congress has been caught flat-footed too often on these issues that are of the utmost importance to our staff and our constituents.”
The support for new initiatives to stop sexual harassment did not stop there.
Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty LAW ’85, D-Conn., issued a press release on Nov. 29 voicing support for the House’s passage of a resolution mandating sexual harassment training for lawmakers and staff.
“I am committed to creating a safe workplace that supports all of my staff and doesn’t tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind,” Esty said. “For too long, the culture in Washington has accepted entirely unacceptable behavior. That needs to change — period.”
TIME Magazine named “The Silence Breakers” — the women who spoke up against sexual harassment — as its 2017 Person of the Year.
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