Note: See below for signficant updates to this story.
Hours after a story appeared Wednesday morning describing a seventh allegation of sexual misconduct by Sen. Al Franken, a group of at least two dozen Democrats in the Senate, led by several women, have called on Franken to resign his seat. Several members of the Minnesota delegation in the U.S. House, along with the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, have also said Franken should step down.
Politico reported the story of a former Democratic congressional aide who said Franken attempted to forcibly kiss her in 2006 after a taping of Franken’s radio show. The former aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, alleged Franken said his behavior was his “right as an entertainer.”
Franken’s office denied this account — making it the first time, out of seven misconduct allegations against the senator, that he has categorically denied a woman’s allegation. On Wednesday afternoon, Franken’s office said he will be making an announcement on Thursday.
The tidal wave of calls for Franken’s resignation began in the 11 o’clock hour, Eastern, on Wednesday morning. The group includes senators up for re-election next year, senators buzzed about as candidates for president in 2020, and one in a high position in Senate leadership. The group calling on Franken to resign does not, of press time, include Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar’s office has not responded to a request for comment.
The first Senator to call for Franken’s resignation was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who has been spearheading legislation in Congress to counteract Capitol Hill’s culture of sexual harassment and misconduct.
In the following 15 minutes, Gillibrand was followed by a group of women Democrats: Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Sen. Kamala Harris of California. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan later joined that group. Those three women all face tough re-election battles next year in states Donald Trump won in 2016.
A notable addition was Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington, who is one of the most influential Democrats in the Senate and the number three in Democratic Senate leadership. She is the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on which Franken currently sits.
Several Democratic men quickly joined their female colleagues in calling for Franken to resign. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the number two Democrat in the Senate, said Franken should resign, as did Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Franken’s office did not respond to a request to comment on the calls for his resignation.
The Politico story today increased the number of harassment and misconduct allegations against Franken to seven. Before today, none of Franken’s Democratic Senate colleagues had publicly called for his resignation, while several U.S. House members, though none from Minnesota, did.
To this point, Franken has remained in the Senate and returned to work, promising to cooperate with an investigation into his conduct by the Senate Ethics Committee. The secretive committee had confirmed it had begun its investigation into Franken.
Since this story was first posted, there have been a number of developments.
Klobuchar, via Twitter, said she had spoken with Franken and she is “confident he will make the right decision.”
MinnPost spoke with 1st District DFL Rep. Tim Walz and 7th District DFL Rep. Collin Peterson off the House floor on Wednesday afternoon. Both said they expected Franken to resign, and both believed that is the correct move for him to make.
Peterson said the number of Senate Democrats calling for Franken’s resignation means “there’s no way [Franken] can be effective anymore.”
“We want to move on,” Walz said. “It’s a sad thing. It’s tragic. It’s tragic for the people involved. Sen. Franken has done great work for Minnesota.”
Peterson and Walz were the only Minnesota Democratic members of Congress to explicitly call for Franken’s resignation. Eighth District DFL Rep. Rick Nolan said there was a “compelling case” for him to step down, but wanted to wait for Franken to make the announcement.
Fourth District DFL Rep. Betty McCollum said in a statement that “The allegations against Sen. Al Franken make it impossible for him to be an effective Senator for Minnesota. When he makes his announcement tomorrow, I have every confidence that he will do the right thing for Minnesota and our country.”
Also on Wednesday afternoon, The Atlantic posted an account by writer Tina Dupuy accusing Franken of groping her while she posed for a photo with him in 2009.
More Democratic Senators have stepped forward to call for Franken’s resignation. Those include Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Sen. Angus King of Maine, and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.