UPDATED: Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) faced calls for his resignation from fellow Democratic colleagues on Wednesday, after a new allegation surfaced of inappropriate conduct.
His office said that he would make an announcement on Thursday. Minnesota Public Radio reported that he planned to resign, but his office put out a statement saying “not accurate.”
“No final decision has been made and the Senator is still talking with his family,” his office said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “I consider a 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.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) was the first to demand Franken’s resignation.
“As elected officials, we should be held to the highest standards—not the lowest,” she wrote in a Facebook post.” The allegations against Sen. Franken describe behavior that cannot be tolerated. While he’s entitled to an Ethics Committee hearing, I believe he should step aside to let someone else serve.”
Her calls for him to step aside were followed by a cascade of other lawmakers who said that it was time for Franken to step down. By mid-afternoon, more than 20 other Senate Democrats called on him to step aside, along with Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Among the lawmakers calling for him to resign were California’s two senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.
On Wednesday, Politico reported that a former Democratic congressional aide said Franken made an unwanted sexual advance at her doing his radio show in 2006. That was before he became a senator in 2009.
“He was between me and the door and he was coming at me to kiss me. It was very quick and I think my brain had to work really hard to be like ‘Wait, what is happening?’” the woman told Politico, which did not publish her identity. “But I knew whatever was happening was not right and I ducked. I was really startled by it and I just sort of booked it towards the door and he said, ‘It’s my right as an entertainer.’”
Franken denied the claim, saying that it was “categorically not true.” He said he would cooperate with an ethics investigation.
Later on Thursday, another woman, Tina Dupuy, a writer and commentator based in Manhattan, posted her account of being groped by Franken as they posed for a photo at a party during the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama.
The woman’s accusation came after a number of other women have alleged inappropriate conduct. Leeann Tweeden, a newscaster for KABC radio in Los Angeles, said Franken groped her while they were on a USO tour in 2006. Franken apologized, but also said he had a different recollection of the events. Five other women have accused Franken of inappropriate sexual conduct.
On Thanksgiving, Franken issued a statement in which he said he “crossed a line for some women,” and apologized. He vowed to regain the trust of the state’s voters. He returned to the Senate after the holiday weekend, and even spoke on the Senate floor last Friday against the Republican tax reform legislation.
But his fate has been in doubt, particularly with new allegations surfacing and because House Democrats also have called for some of their colleagues who have been accused of sexual harassment to step aside. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) resigned on Tuesday in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct made by multiple women.
Franken was seated as a senator in 2009, after a narrow win over incumbent Norm Coleman, a Republican, in the previous year’s election forced a recount. After his career as a comedy writer, “Saturday Night Live” staffer and radio host, he spent much of his first term downplaying his celebrity to emphasize his seriousness in representing the state. He was reelected in 2014.
The state’s governor, Mark Dayton, a Democrat, would be able to appoint Franken’s successor, who would serve until the next scheduled statewide election, in November, 2018. That new senator could run for the rest of Franken’s term, which runs through 2020. The state’s other senator, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), also is up for reelection next year.