Update: Franken’s office says he will have an announcement on Thursday
At least nine Democratic senators — seven female and one male — called on Sen. Al Franken to resign Wednesday, marking the first time any senator has called on the Minnesota Democrat to leave office as allegations of sexual harassment against him continue to mount.
In a statement on Facebook, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wrote: “While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, 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.”
Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Patty Murray of Washington, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Kamala Harris of California, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii also joined in the call for Franken to resign. He has been accused of inappropriately touching several women.
Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania was the first male Democratic senator to call on Franken to resign just after noon Wednesday. Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana also called for Franken to step down.
Murray’s backing is significant because she’s a member of Democratic leadership and is the highest-ranking woman in the Senate.
The Senate Ethics Committee is investigating Franken following an account described by Leeann Tweeden, a morning news anchor on KABC radio in Los Angeles, which described Franken groping and forcibly kissing her during a USO tour in 2006 before Franken became a senator. After that initial account, several other women came forward to say Franken inappropriately touched them. Franken has repeatedly apologized about behavior that he said “crossed a line” for some women. The second-term senator has also said that he has taken thousands of photos with people over the years and that while he doesn’t remember specific pictures or campaign events, any inappropriate behavior was unintentional.
The calls for Franken to resign come one day after Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan announced he would retire immediately. Conyers had also faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment by former employees, accusations Conyers vehemently he denied.