Al Franken resigns from US Senate amid sexual harassment accusations

By Spectrum News Staff,
Last Updated: Thursday, December 07, 2017, 1:06 PM EST

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who has been hounded by fellow lawmakers to step down amid sexual harassment accusations, said from the Senate floor Thursday morning that he will step down.

Franken said he was shocked and upset when women made claims against him, but he said some of the allegations aren't true, and he remembers incidents differently. 

"Nevertheless, today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate," Franken said. "I may be resigning my seat, but I'm not giving up my voice. I will continue to stand up for the things I believe in as a citizen and as an activist."

During his speech, he said he finds it ironic that Republican politicians facing sexual misconduct allegations are continuing their political careers.

"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."

The men were not-so-subtle references to President Donald Trump and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who is running for a Senate seat against Democrat Doug Jones. Moore has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct, some of whom said they were teens at the time.

Franken said it became clear that he could not be an "effective" senator for the people of Minnesota while being involved in the Senate Ethics Committee investigation over the allegations.

He said it was the right thing to do to allow the women who made accusations against him to speak out, saying he believed that all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously. Franken said this may have given people the false impression that he was admitting guilt. 

"I'm proud of my time in the Senate to use my power to be a champion of women," he said.

He added that he will continue to fight for the people of his state and stand up for the things he believes in as a citizen. 

"There is a big part of me that always regret, having to walk away from this job with so much work left to be done," Franken said.  

Franken continued, saying that he considers himself fortunate to have a loving, healthy family.

"I'm going to be just fine," he said. "Even today, even on the worst day of my political life, I feel like it's all been worth it ... I know the work I've been able to do has improved people's lives. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat."

Early on Thursday morning, Franken's Twitter account posted that he would deliver a speech on the Senate floor at 11:45 a.m. 

On Wednesday, Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez said sexual misconduct, harassment and assault have no place in the party or Congress.

Perez joined several other Senate Democrats in calling for Franken to step down.

"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, not a lower standard," New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said.

With Franken's Senate vacancy, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint someone to fill in until a special election is held next November.

One of Franken's accusers said he forcibly kissed her on a USO tour and took a sexually suggestive photo while she was sleeping; three other women allege Franken grabbed their buttocks while posing with them for photos during separate campaign events in 2007, 2008 and 2010.

Franken faces a Senate Ethics Committee investigation over the allegations.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.