Dec. 7 (UPI) — Mired in a growing sexual harassment scandal that saw members of his own party call for his removal, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken said Thursday he’s resigning from Congress.
Franken announced his departure on the Senate floor Thursday morning.
“Serving in the Senate has been a great honor of my life,” he said. “Today, I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the U.S. Senate.”
“I am aware there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving when a man who has bragged on tape sits in the oval office,” Franken said, referring to the Access Hollywood tape last year that purportedly included then-candidate Donald Trump bragging about touching women.
“Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” he added, saying he has spent much of his Senate career as a champion for women.
Franken, 66, was first elected to the Senate in 2008 and won re-election in 2014. His term wasn’t set to expire until 2020.
“This has been a tough few weeks for me, but I am a lucky man. … I’m going to be just fine.”
A former comedian and member of the television sketch show Saturday Night Live, Franken has been accused of sexual misconduct involving several women. When the allegations became public last month, Franken apologized for making inappropriate advances and called for an ethics investigation.
One incident occurred at a USO performance overseas in 2006, when a woman said Franken forcibly kissed her during a rehearsal. In another incident, she said Franken groped her through a flak vest she wore traveling from Afghanistan to Los Angeles. A photographer also snapped an image of Franken acting as if he were touching her breasts as she slept.
“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies,” Franken said. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
Several other women subsequently reported they’d also been harassed in some form by Franken, both before and after he was elected to the Senate.
“The truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories,” he said last month. “They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”
Wednesday, a dozen Democratic senators called on Franken to give up his Senate seat immediately.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton now must appoint a replacement to fill Franken’s seat until a permanent replacement is elected next year. The state’s lieutenant governor, Tina Smith, is said to be a possible appointee.
Franken became the second federal lawmaker to resign from Congress this week. Tuesday, Michigan Rep. John Conyers announced he would resign immediately amid sexual misconduct allegations of his own.
Sexual accusations are also hampering a Senate bid by Alabama candidate Roy Moore, the top Republican candidate in Tuesday’s special election to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.