On Wednesday morning, a woman came forward alleging Sen. Al Franken behaved inappropriately towards her in 2006 when she was a guest on his radio show, making her the seventh woman to accuse Franken of sexual harassment. Several senators, including many fellow Democrats, demanded Franken’s resignation following the Politico report where the unidentified woman accused Franken of forcibly trying to kiss her and then telling her it was his “right as an entertainer” when she refused.
After the first accuser, news radio host Leeane Tweeden, shared a photo of Franken appearing to grope her while she was asleep while the two were on a USO tour in 2006, the Minnesota senator released a statement “asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken” and that he will “fully gladly cooperate.” Party leadership wasn’t particularly quick to act against Franken, even though more accusations have followed, which has seemingly convinced Franken that he can pass the buck on deciding his fate to that ethics investigation. In response to the latest accuser, Franken told Politico:
“This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.”
But his intended cooperation with such an inquiry appears to be a no longer sufficient gesture for his colleagues.
“While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review,” Senator Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY) wrote in an extensive Facebook post, “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.”
Gillibrand was the first to make a statement, but she was quickly followed by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Kamala Harris (D-CA). Senators Bob Casey and (D-PA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) were the first men to call for their colleague’s resignation. As the list of Democratic lawmakers calling for Franken to resign grows, it’s becoming increasingly clear that he has no other choice but to leave office.
In an ideal post-Weinstein America, Democrats and Republicans would band together to credibly address institutional sexual misconduct in the world of politics. It’s clear that such a thing is impossible, because Republicans have so far shown that they are unwilling to deal with the abusers in their own party. President Trump has already issued a full-throated endorsement of GOP Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore following an extensively sourced Washington Post story alleging that he had inappropriate sexual contact with girls as young as 14 when he was an assistant district attorney in his ’30s. With Moore’s race with Democratic challenger Doug Jones looking neck-and-neck, the RNC has resumed funding of Moore’s campaign. Former congressional aide Lauren Greene told Politico that her once promising career effectively ended after she accused her boss, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), of sexually harassing her. Farenthold paid his settlement to Greene using taxpayer money and yet the GOP has been quiet when it comes to holding him accountable. Then there’s the pesky matter of the president himself seeming to avoid any and all accountability after 16 women accused him of sexual harassment and assault.
Nonetheless, it’s important that Democrats take the lead on this. There is likely a political upper hand to be gained, but more importantly elected officials are supposed to hold themselves to a standard befitting of people who lead our country. Democrats should push to establish and enforce that standard, regardless of whether their Republican colleagues feel the same duty. The longer that Franken spends in office, the longer Democrats send the message that both Franken and the party are somehow above facing the uncomfortable consequences of our post-Weinstein sexual misconduct reckoning, a notion that is absurd.
“Senator Franken will be making an announcement tomorrow,” a rep responded after Spin reached out to Franken’s office for comment. “More details to come.”