Democratic US Senator Al Franken to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations

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Al Franken announces his resignation

Senator Al Franken, once a rising star in the Democratic Party, has announced he is stepping down. Franken faced calls from within his party to resign after fresh sexual misconduct allegations surfaced on Wednesday.

Al Franken, the Democratic senator for Minnesota, announced on the Senate floor on Thursday that he would resign amid a stream of sexual misconduct allegations.

Addressing the allegations, which have been made by at least eight different women, Franken insisted some of the reports against him were untrue, while saying that he remembered others differently.

The senator from Minnesota had apologized to some of the women accusing him and said he would cooperate with a Senate Ethics Committee investigation. However, after a majority of his Democratic colleagues called for him step down on Wednesday as fresh allegations came to light, Franken found himself forced to bow to the pressure.

Read more: How people are saying #MeToo around the world

"I know in my heart that nothing I've done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution," Franken said. "Nevertheless, today I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate."

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DW News | 29.11.2017

Women open up about sexual harassment on Capitol Hill

Despite denying the allegations, Franken nevertheless insisted that woman accusing him of improper conduct "deserve to be heard and [have] their experiences taken seriously."

Franken, 66, a former comedian who rose to fame on "Saturday Night Live," was widely regarded as a rising star in the Democratic Party, having won the Minnesota Senate seat in 2008.

Following US President Donald Trump's election to the White House, Franken became one of the fiercest opponents of the administration. Before the allegations arose, there was even talk of Franken making a bid for the Democrats' 2020 presidential nomination. 

He is the second lawmaker to leave the US Congress this week amid an ever-widening backlash against sexual harassment and assault. On Tuesday, Michigan Democrat John Conyers announced his resignation following claims by his congressional aids of sexual assault.

Read more: Ohio politician criticized for Facebook post 'trivializing' sexual assault

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His departure opens the door for a Republican to recapture the seat the party lost following Franken's 2008 election win, and thereby extend their slim 52-48 Senate majority.

First, however, Minnesota's democratic governor, Mark Dayton will appoint a successor in the coming days to take over Franken's seat. A special election in November 2018 will then decide who sees through the end of Franken's term until January 2021.

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Parting jab at Trump

In his resignation speech, Franken also referenced the sexual assault allegations facing Trump and his fellow Republican, Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore

Read more: Trump backs Republican Roy Moore despite sexual assault reports

Franken told the Senate floor: "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."

A spate of allegations

The latest allegations took the total number of woman accusing Franken of sexual misconduct to at least eight.

On Wednesday morning a former Democratic congressional aide accused Franken of forcibly trying to kiss her in 2006, before he was elected to the Senate. Franken swiftly denied the allegations, but then, just hours later, another woman said he had inappropriately squeezed "a handful of flesh" on her waist while posing for a photo in 2009.

Allegations against Franken first surfaced in mid-November when Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles model and radio anchor, accused him of forcibly kissing her during an entertainment tour for US troops in Afghanistan.

At least four other women have accused Franken of groping them, either on the buttocks or the breast. 


Ashley Judd

In 1997, upcomer Ashley Judd was invited to meet star-maker Harvey Weinstein at an LA hotel, whereupon he tried to coerce her into bed. Judd escaped but refused to be silenced. Many in Hollywood then said the producer's sexual misconduct was an "open secret." "There wasn't a place for us to report these experiences," said Judd, the first to call out Weinstein in the New York Times in October.


Rose McGowan

When actor Rose McGowan first told people that Harvey Weinstein had raped her, she says some in Hollywood threatened to end her career. "They threatened [me] with being blacklisted. I was blacklisted after I was raped, because I got raped, because I said something," she said in a January interview first published in the Observer. But that didn't stop her from later speaking out.


Taylor Swift

When Taylor Swift alleged that Denver radio DJ David Mueller reached under her skirt and groped her, he took her to court after it lead to his firing. "I'm not going to let you or your client make me feel in any way that this is my fault," she told his lawyer. Swift also told Time magazine that if Mueller was "brazen enough to assault me... imagine what he might do to a vulnerable, young artist."


Selma Blair

Blair claims that writer/director James Toback invited her to his room and asked her to remove her clothing while she read a script before asking her for sex. When she refused, he blocked her way and masturbated against her leg. He then threatened to kill her if she dared to talk. "I didn't want to speak up because, it sounds crazy but, even until now, I have been scared for my life," said Blair.


Alyssa Milano

"Me Too" was first used in 2006 by gender equality activist Tarana Burke as a rallying cry for young sexual harassment and assault survivors. Actor Alyssa Milano was sent a screenshot of the phrase in October and later tweeted: "If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet." She woke to find that over 30,000 people had used #MeToo and burst into tears.


Wendy Walsh

After Bill O'Reilly and Fox News spent millions on lawyers to settle, and silence, sexual harassment claims, Wendy Walsh, a psychologist and Fox contributor spoke out about O'Reilly after initial reluctance for fear of retaliation. "I felt it was my duty," Walsh told Time, "as a mother of daughters, as an act of love for women everywhere and the women who are silenced, to be brave."


Megyn Kelly

TV news anchor Megyn Kelly has accused Fox host Bill O'Reilly of sexual harassment. "What if we did complain?" she said to Time, "if we spoke our truth in our strongest voices? What if that worked to change reality right now?" Perhaps that change has already started to come. "I always thought maybe things could change for my daughter," said Kelly. "I never thought things could change for me."


Susan Fowler

An Uber engineer, Fowler felt powerless with "a harasser in the White House" and decided to out sexual harassers at Uber in a blog post. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was subsequently forced to resign and 20-odd employees were fired. "There's something really empowering about standing up for what's right," said Fowler, who has been described as a whistle-blower — which she calls "a badge of honor."


Terry Crews

The actor and former American football star is one of a number of men who have said "me too." Crews has taken out a sexual assault lawsuit against talent agent Adam Venit, who he accuses of groping him at a party in Hollywood in February 2016. Also among Time's Silence Breakers is actor Blaise Godbe Lipman, who's accused talent agent Tyler Grasham of sexually assaulting him when he was a teenager.

Another Congressman, House of Representative Republican Trent Franks, said on Thursday that he would resign amid an investigation into sexual harassment by the House Ethics Committee.

Franks said he had never physically intimidated or coerced any member of staff, but that he was sorry his discussion in the workplace relating to his family issue of surrogacy had upset two female staffers.

dm/msh (AP, Reuters, dpa)