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Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who successfully made the jump from Saturday Night Live funnyman to media personality to U.S. senator, on Thursday announced that he’s leaving his seat “in the coming weeks” following a three-week-long wave of sexual misconduct allegations against him that saw his support in the chamber vanish.
Franken was defiant in his speech and pushed back on how he’s been characterized in media reporting about the allegations against him, which include forced kissing and non-consensual touching.
“I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am,” Franken said on the Senate floor. “Serving in the U.S. Senate has been the great honor of my life. I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator, nothing, has brought dishonor on this institution.”
Franken repeated in his speech that “some of the allegations against me aren’t true,” but said that women need to be listened to and believed.
(His office announced at a later date that Franken will officially resign on Jan. 2. Senator-Designate Tina Smith will be sworn in the following day.)
On Wednesday, more than 30 of Franken’s Democratic colleagues in the Senate said publicly that he should step down, only a few hours after Politico reported the story of a woman who said Franken tried to kiss her in 2006, bragging that “it’s [his] right as an entertainer.”
Franken refused to speculate about his possible resignation during a press conference on Nov. 27, following a wave of allegations that began three weeks ago with a stunning story — and photographic evidence — of bad behavior shared by broadcaster Leeann Tweeden.
Franken apologized to Tweeden and to the other women who said he touched and kissed them without their consent, but pledged to continue in the Senate and “get back to work.”
His resignation from the Senate, once a shocking notion, became almost a certainty on Wednesday afternoon after he lost the support of his fellow Senate Democrats, including leadership.
Hollywood’s reaction to Franken’s announcement was mixed. On Thursday morning, before he made the call, Bette Midler wrote: “The Dems are always ready to dump one of their own. The GOP stand behind every child molester and every harasser, including POTUS.”
Alyssa Milano compared Franken’s case to that of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of inappropriately touching a minor but is expected to win his election. “At the very same time that we are asking Franken to resign from senate — we are allowing an accused child molester to run for senate,” she wrote.
Although Franken has said a few times that he has no plans to run for president in 2020, some Democrats had held out hope for him as a dark-horse candidate that could offer both the skills of an entertainer — helpful in countering former reality star Donald Trump — and the chops of a policy wonk.
After resigning from Congress in disgrace, Franken’s political career is almost certainly over.
“This has been a tough few weeks for me, but I am a very lucky man,” he said Thursday in his speech. “I have a beautiful, healthy family that I love and that loves me very much. I’m going to be just fine.”
Dec. 20, 12:40 p.m. Updated with Franken’s official resignation date.
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