Al Franken Resigns After String of Sexual Misconduct Allegations

The Jewish Democratic senator resigned in a speech on the Senate floor

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) on Capitol Hill in Washington March 21, 2017
Senator Al Franken (D-MN) on Capitol Hill in Washington March 21, 2017 Joshua Roberts/REUTERS

U.S. Democratic Senator Al Franken announced his resignation on Thursday, a day after a majority of his Democratic Senate colleagues called for him to step down following a string of sexual misconduct allegations. 

After accusations began surfacing three weeks ago, Franken said he would remain in office and work to regain the trust of voters in Minnesota, the state he represents. 

But on Wednesday, calls for him to resign came from the majority of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate, including Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and almost all of the Democratic women in the chamber, and put great pressure on him to quit. 

"I consider 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," Schumer said in a statement. 

Franken said on Twitter that he would make an announcement on Thursday, but he offered no details. 

In its report, Minnesota Public Radio cited a Democratic official who had spoken to the senator and aides. 

Franken is one of a number of prominent American men in politics, media and entertainment who have been accused in recent months of sexual harassment and misconduct. 

Another accusation against Franken surfaced on Wednesday when news website Politico reported that a congressional aide said Franken had tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006, before he was first elected as a senator. Franken denied the allegations, Politico reported. 

Franken's office did not reply to a request for comment on the Politico report. 

The calls on Wednesday marked the first time Franken's Democratic colleagues had publicly pressed for him to step down since the accusations surfaced. The party's chairman, Tom Perez, also pressed for him to resign. 

"I've struggled with this decision because he's been a good senator and I consider him a friend," Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii wrote on Twitter. "But that cannot excuse his behavior and his mistreatment of women." 

Franken apologized for his behavior after earlier accusations and said he would cooperate with a Senate Ethics Committee investigation. Reuters has not independently verified the claims against him. 

Democrats are seeking the moral high ground in the wake of sexual misconduct accusations against numerous public figures, including Republican Roy Moore of Alabama, who is running for the Senate, and Democratic Representative John Conyers, who resigned on Tuesday. Both of those men have denied the accusations against them. 

Several Republican lawmakers initially called on Moore to step out of the race, but have since said the decision is ultimately up to Alabama voters. President Donald Trump has endorsed the candidate. The election is Tuesday. 

Franken, a former comedian who rose to national prominence as a cast member on the long-running television program "Saturday Night Live," had been considered a rising star in the Democratic party since he was first elected in 2008. 

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who was among those saying Franken should resign, told reporters that Democrats had been "having conversations" about Franken for a while. 

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell joined the groundswell against Franken, saying in a statement, "I do not believe he can effectively serve the people of Minnesota in the U.S. Senate any longer." 

Franken's Minnesota colleague, Senator Amy Klobuchar, wrote on Twitter, "Sexual harassment is unacceptable. This morning I spoke with Senator Franken and, as you know, he will be making an announcement about his future tomorrow morning. I am confident he will make the right decision."