Al Franken says he cannot fight sexual misconduct allegations and still serve Minnesotans in the U.S. Senate, so will resign in the coming weeks.
Franken did not acknowledge any wrongdoing in an 11-minute, 32-second Thursday, Dec. 7, speech in the Senate chambers.
“This decision is not about me, it is about people of Minnesota,” Franken said. “It has become clear that I cannot both pursue the ethics committee process and remain an effective senator for them.”
He was not specific about when he will leave office.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton needs to appoint Franken’s replacement, who will serve until a new senator is elected in November of 2018. Shortly after Franken’s speech, Dayton released a statement saying he will make a decision “in the next couple of days.”
The consensus among political observers seems to be that Lt. Gov. Tina Smith is the most likely Dayton choice for the temporary Senate job. If that happens, state Senate President Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, would take over lieutenant governor duties. There is some question about whether she could remain a senator.
Franken said some allegations against him “are simply not true. Others I remember differently.”
“All women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously,” Franken said, adding that he does not admit to the allegations.
Allegations against him came at a time that “we were finally beginning to listen to women and how men’s actions affect them,” he said.
Franken promised to keep speaking up for women and said other senators and his staff will do the same.
“I have faith in my colleagues, especially the senior senator, Sen. Amy Klobuchar,” Franken said, adding that he could not have done the job without her.
After Franken’s speech, Klobuchar said: “Today Sen. Franken acknowledged that he could no longer serve in the Senate and resigned. As he and I discussed yesterday, this is the right decision.”
Many Minnesota political leaders agreed Franken’s decision was right.
“Sen. Franken made the right decision today…” Chairman Ken Martin of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party said. “While sexual harassment and assault are dominating headlines recently, they have dominated the lives of women in our country for far too long.”
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said Franken has accomplished much: “Al’s voice and vote were instrumental in extending health care to millions of Americans, helping our students succeed and upholding our commitments to tribal nations.”
Franken, a Democrat, said he has no regrets about running for Senate. “Even on the worst day of my political life, I feel it has all been worth it. … I know that the work I have been able to do has improve people’s lives. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”
The senator made it clear that he was not happy leaving when President Donald Trump and Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama, both Republicans, have not been forced out after they were accused of sexual misconduct. He said there was “some irony” in the situation.
Eight women accused Franken of improper contact, including trying to force them to kiss him and that he held onto buttocks while photos were being taken.
The latest allegation came Wednesday when New Yorker Tina Dupuy wrote in The Atlantic that Franken groped her in 2009. An earlier Wednesday story in Politico was about a former Democratic congressional aide who said Franken tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006 after her boss was on Franken’s radio show.
The accusations began Nov. 16, when Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden posted her story about Franken forcing a kiss on her during a USO tour rehearsal and later having a picture of him taken with his hands over her breasts as she slept on a military airplane.
Other allegations came from women who accused Franken of sexual misconduct at the Minnesota State Fair, political events and other locations.
Franken apologized for the USO photo, denied a couple of the incidents happened as his accusers claimed and said that thousands of photos are taken of him so he does not recall them.
After denying the story the congressional aide told Politico, Franken said he looked forward to a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into his actions. But soon after the Politico story hit the web, Democratic senators, joined by others, began demanding his resignation.
Within hours Wednesday, more than half of Franken’s Democratic Senate colleagues said he needed to leave. They were joined by the top Democratic Party officials and some Minnesota Democrats.
The current accusations are not the first time Franken has been in trouble over how he treated women. When he first ran for the Senate in 2008, he apologized for what many called inappropriate jokes about women.
Many of those jokes came when he was a writer and performer on “Saturday Night Live” in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. He gained national notoriety from SNL, which made him one of the best-known members of Congress.
His visibility increased so much earlier this year, as he attacked President Donald Trump’s appointees and policies, that many Democrats were urging him to run for president.
Franken, 66, was born in New York but grew up in Albert Lea and St. Louis Park, Minn.
After leaving the NBC television show, he turned into a liberal radio talk show host and began writing books.
Among his books was “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.” Like much of his writing, it was largely satirical.
His most recent book, released earlier this year, is “Al Franken: Giant of the Senate.” The book, which received a five-star rating from its Amazon readers, was reviewed by the Washington Post with comments like “genuinely funny book, often hilarious. …The Senate, and the country, would be the poorer without him. He’s an American original.”
Franken overcame criticism of his writing that offended women, including by many Democrats, to win a narrow U.S. Senate race in 2008.
He beat Republican Norm Coleman, a former St. Paul mayor who won six years earlier after then-Sen. Paul Wellstone died in an airplane crash days before the election.
A recount left Franken with a 312-vote victory and delayed him taking office until July 2009.
His 2014 re-election bid was easier as he got more than 53 percent of the vote against Republican MIke McFadden.