Al Franken Calls for Ethics Investigation of Himself

Leann Tweeden and Al Franken - Split - Getty - H 2017
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Senate Democrats are starting to speak out about the allegation against their colleague.

Sensing that the story isn't going away, Sen. Al Franken released a stronger, longer statement on Thursday afternoon in response to allegations of sexual harassment lodged by television host Leeann Tweeden.

Franken, in his second statement to reporters, apologized again to Tweeden, said that he respects women, discussed his comedy career and some off-color jokes he's written in the past and took the next step of formally condoning a Senate investigation into his conduct in 2006, before he was elected to the Senate.

"I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate," Franken said.

Several Senate Democrats have already spoken out about the allegations against Franken.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said that Franken's documented behavior is "unacceptable" and "extremely disappointing." She added: "I support an ethics committee investigation into these accusations, and I hope this latest example of the deep problems on this front spurs continued action to address it."

Another female member of the Senate, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, also issued a statement supporting an ethics investigation. "I'm shocked and concerned," she said. "The behavior described is completely unacceptable."

Chuck Schumer, the leading Senate Democrat, said in a statement that he hopes and expects the ethics committee to address "this troubling incident." Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell was early in calling for an investigation. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, during a Thursday afternoon press briefing, encouraged efforts to seek a Senate investigation into the matter. "We feel like it's an appropriate action," she said.

The accusations against Franken, evidence of which include a photograph in which clearly he is touching Tweeden inappropriately, come at a time when a spotlight is being shined on sexual harassment in Congress.

Jackie Speier, a Democratic House member from California, alleged this week that the body has paid out $15 million to settle sexual harassment claims in the last 10 to 15 years. She also said, in congressional testimony, that two members of Congress have engaged in sexual harassment but did not name them. Tweeden cited Speier as one of the people who spurred her to come forward in her post about Franken.

Not surprisingly, Republican campaign committees have been quick to hit Democrats connected to Franken. The National Republican Congressional Committee, which focuses on electing Republications to the House, put out a statement calling for Democrats to return donations made to them by Franken, calling to mind the rush for congressional Democrats to return money given to them by Harvey Weinstein early last month.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced on Thursday that she will donate the money she's received from Franken's political action committee to Protect Our Defenders, which works to end sexual harassment and assault in the military.