WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Sen. Al Franken announced Thursday that he is resigning amid sexual misconduct allegations.
Speaking from the Senate floor, the Minnesota Democrat said he would be resigning “in the coming weeks.” But he called some of the allegations against him “simply not true” and said others he remembered “very differently.”
“I was shocked. I was upset. But in responding to their claims, I wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation because all women deserve to be heard and their experience taken seriously,” he said.
Franken said he can’t go through a Senate Ethics Committee investigation and effectively represent his state at the same time.
“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,” he said.
A majority of the Senate’s Democrats called on the two-term lawmaker to quit after a woman emerged Wednesday morning saying he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006. Hours later, another woman said Franken inappropriately squeezed “a handful of flesh” on her waist while posing for a photo with her in 2009. That brought the number of women alleging misconduct by Franken to at least eight.
Franken, the former comedian who made his name on “Saturday Night Live,” faced a chorus of calls to step aside.
“Enough is enough,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable, and we, as elected leaders, should absolutely be held to a higher standard.”
Gillibrand was the first to call for Franken’s resignation on Wednesday, but a torrent of Democrats quickly followed.
“I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behavior,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state. “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.”
“It is probably in the best interest of a lot of people that he resign,” said Sen. Kamala Harris of California.
Late in the day, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York added his voice.
“I consider Senator Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has a higher obligation to his constituents and the Senate, and he should step down immediately,” Schumer said.
Franken on Wednesday vehemently denied the new accusation that came from a former Democratic congressional aide, who said he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006.
The woman, who was not identified, told Politico that Franken pursued her after her boss had left and she was collecting her belongings. She said that she ducked to avoid his lips and that Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”
Franken, in a statement, said the idea he would claim such conduct as a right was “preposterous.”
The allegations began in mid-November when Leeann Tweeden, now a Los Angeles radio anchor, accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour in Afghanistan.
There have also been other alleged instances where women say he groped them while taking pictures at public events. Franken has apologized for his behavior but has also disputed some of the allegations.
Political analysts say the crowd has spoken.
“If he doesn’t have the support of the people in his own party, let alone the Republicans, if he doesn’t have support, it’s gonna be very difficult for him to stay,” said political analyst Pat Kessler.
Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement Wednesday that sexual misconduct, harassment and assault have no place in the Democratic Party, Congress, the White House or anywhere.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)