WASHINGTON – The highest-ranking woman in the Senate and several of her colleagues demanded on Wednesday that Sen. Al Franken resign his seat because of a slew of accusations of sexual harassment and molestation.
Within hours after a report by Politico about a new accuser, at least eight U.S. senators, including Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, said the Minnesota lawmaker must go. Politico cited an unnamed Democratic congressional aide who said Franken cornered her in a studio in 2006 and forcibly tried to kiss her. Franken was elected in 2008 and had a long career as a comedian before that.
“I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behavior. It’s clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time,” Murray said in a statement. “It’s time for him to step aside,” she said.
“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,” Ms. Gillibrand posted on Facebook.
According to the Politico report, Franken approached the unnamed aide after her boss had left the broadcast studio. She said she was gathering her belongings when she turned around to find Franken in her face, attempting to kiss her. The two did not know each other.
Franken was the first sitting lawmaker in Washington to be publicly accused. A Senate ethics panel opened a preliminary inquiry after at least six women accused Franken of groping and other unwelcome conduct.
Franken has apologized and said he welcomes an ethics investigation even as his spokesman released a statement saying that Franken “has never intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct.”
Stephanie Kemplin of Ohio, who says Franken cupped her breast as the two posed for a photo in 2003 while she was stationed with the Army in Kuwait, is the most recent named accuser to come forward. Others include radio and sports broadcaster Leeann Tweeden, who says Franken stuck his tongue down her throat and later pretended to grope her in a picture while she was sleeping. The alleged incidents took place during a 2006 USO tour in the Middle East to entertain U.S. troops, before Franken was elected to the Senate.
Franken has pledged to cooperate with a Senate Ethics Committee investigation and said he “is open” to making the results public.