After a former Democratic Congressional aide accused Senator Al Franken of sexual harassment on Wednesday morning—bringing the number of women who have alleged sexual harassment to eight—a number of Franken’s women colleagues have called on the Minnesota Senator to resign.
“I have been shocked and disappointed to learn over the last few weeks that a colleague I am fond of personally has engaged in behavior towards women that is unacceptable,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. Gillibrand noted that Franken is a “friend,” but argued that friendship should not be an impediment to “this watershed moment is bigger than any one industry, any one party, or any one person.” “I have spent a lot of time reflecting on Senator Franken’s behavior,” she continued.
Enough is enough. The women who have come forward are brave and I believe them. While it’s true that his behavior is not the same as the criminal conduct alleged against Roy Moore, or Harvey Weinstein, or President Trump, it is still unquestionably wrong, and should not be tolerated by those of us who are privileged to work in public service.
Gillibrand then called for Franken to resign. Her call was echoed quickly by numerous women Democratic Senators, including Mazie Hirono, Maggie Hassan, Claire McCaskill, Kamala Harris, Tammy Baldwin, and Patty Murray. Like Gillibrand, Hirono referred to Franken as “her friend,” but, she added, “that cannot excuse his behavior and his mistreatment of women.” “We can only create a culture where women are respected as equals if we all step forward and be part of the change by holding everyone, especially our leaders, accountable,” Hirono concluded at the end of a thoughtful Twitter thread.
The call for Franken to resign will surely be controversial. Democrats have hedged their proverbial bets on the sexual harassment allegations leveled against Franken and Congressman John Conyers, in both cases, announcing ethics investigations into their behavior. Conyers announced his resignation on Tuesday, but in late November, Franken announced he would return to the Senate and began shaping the narrative of his eventual redemption.
It’s clear that with mounting sexual harassment allegations, a sizable number of Franken’s colleagues believe that his responsibility is greater than a mere apology and some soul-searching. “In the wake of the election of President Trump, in just the last few months, our society is changing, and I encourage women and men to keep speaking up to continue this progress. At this moment, we need to speak hard truths or lose our chance to make lasting change,” Gillibrand wrote.
Franken’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Update: Senator Franken’s office has said that he “will be making an announcement” on Thursday.