Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced his plans to resign from the Senate on Thursday (Dec. 7) following a rising chorus of Democratic colleagues asking him to step down in “the coming weeks’ following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. In doing so, the Democrat apologized to his constituents while taking a pointed shot at President Trump and the Republican Party for its support of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, an accused pedophile.
“I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the senate with the full support of his party,” Franken said of Trump, who was accused by nearly a dozen women of sexual misconduct during the presidential election and Alabama’s Moore, who has been accused by at least five women — some as young as 14 at the time — of sexual assault or harassment.
Franken has been accused by seven women of sexual harassment, and in stepping down he became the second Democrat to announce his resignation; earlier this week, long-serving Detroit U.S. Rep. John Conyers, 88, ended his five-decade career following accusations from multiple former aides of sexual harassment. In saying that he will soon leave Congress, Franken repeated that some of the allegations against him are untrue and that he recalled some of the incidents differently than his accusers, while saying that an Ethics Committee probe made it impossible for him to effectively do his job.
In announcing his decision Franken also acknowledged the recent groundswell of public statements against alleged sexual harassers and abusers, noting that before he was named, he was encouraged that “we had entered an important moment in the history of this country. We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them.” On Wednesday (Dec. 6) more than 30 of Franken’s Democratic Senate peers publicly called for him to resign just hours after a report said a woman accused him of trying to kiss her in 2006 while stating that it was “[his] right as an entertainer.”
Franken’s decision came a day after Time magazine named the “Silence Breakers” who spoke out against sexual harassment as their Person of the Year. Read the full transcript of Franken’s speech below (via the Washington Post):
A couple of months ago I felt that we had entered an important moment in the history of this country. We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them. The moment was long overdue. I was excited for that conversation and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all across the country and in every part of our society. Then the conversation turned to me.
Over the last few weeks a number of women have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them. I was shocked. I was upset. But in responding to their claims I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously. I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done.
Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently. I said at the outset that the ethics committee was the right venue for these allegations to be heard and investigated and evaluated on their merits, that I was prepared to cooperate fully and that I was confident in the outcome. You know an important part of the conversation we’ve been having the last few months has been about how men abuse their power and privilege to hurt women. I am proud that during my time in the Senate I have used my power to be a champion of women. And that I have earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside everyday. I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am.
Serving in the United States 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, and I am confident that the ethics committee would agree. Nevertheless today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.
I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party. But this decision is not about me. It’s about the people of Minnesota. It has become clear that I can’t both pursue the ethics committee process and at the same time remain an effective senator for them.
Let me be clear. I may be resigning my seat but I am not giving up my voice. I will continue to stand up for the things I believe in as a citizen and as an activist. The Minnesotans deserve a senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the challenges they face every day.
There is a big part of me that will always regret having to walk away from this job with so much work left to be done. But I have faith that the work will continue because I have faith in the people who have helped me do it.
I have faith in the dedicated, funny, selfless, brilliant young men and women on my staff. They have so much more to contribute to our country, and I hope that as disappointed as they may feel today, everyone who has worked for me knows how much I admire and respect them.
I have faith in my colleagues, especially my senior senator, Amy Klobuchar. I would not have been able to do this job without her guidance and wisdom. And I have faith — or at least hope — that members of this Senate will find the political courage necessary to keep asking the tough questions, hold this administration accountable and stand up for the truth. I have faith in the activists who organized and helped me when my first campaign, and who have kept on organizing to help fight for the people who needed us: kids facing bullying. Seniors worried about the price of prescription drugs. Native Americans who have been overlooked for far too long. Working people who’ve been take it on the chin for a generation. Everyone in the middle class and everyone aspiring to join it. I have faith in the proud legacy of progressive advocacy that I have had the privilege to be a part of. I think I’ve probably repeated these words ten thousand times over the years. Paul Wellstone’s famous quote: “The future belongs to those who are passionate and work hard.” It’s still true. It will always be true.
And most of all, I have faith in Minnesota. A big part of this job is going around the state and listening to what people need from Washington. But more often than not when I’m home I am blown away. By how much Minnesota has to offer the entire country and the entire world. The people I’ve had the honor of representing are brilliant and creative and hardworking, and whoever holds this seat next will inherit the challenge I’ve enjoyed for the last eight and a half years: being as good as the people you serve.
This has been a tough few weeks for me. But I’m a very, very lucky man. I have a beautiful healthy family. That I love. And who loves me very much. I’m going to be just fine.
I just like the end with with one last thing. I did not grow up wanting to be a politician. I came to this relatively late in life. I had to learn a lot on the fly. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always fun. And I’m not just talking about today.
This is a hard thing to do with your life. There are a lot of long hours, and late nights, and hard lessons. And there is no guarantee that all your work and sacrifice will ever pay off. I won my first election by 312 votes. It could have easily gone the other way. And even when you win, progress is far from inevitable. Paul Wellstone spent his whole life working for mental health parity, and it didn’t pass until six years after Paul died.
This year a lot of people who didn’t grow up imagining that they’d ever get involved in politics have done just that. They’ve gone through their first protest march or made their first call to a member of Congress. Or maybe even taken the leap and put their names on a ballot for the first time. It can be such a rush to look around a room full of people ready to fight alongside you.
To feel that energy if you imagine that better things are possible but you too will experience setbacks and defeats and disappointments. There’ll be days when you will wonder whether it’s worth it. What I want you to know is that even today — even on the worst day of my political life — I feel like it’s all been worth it. Politics, Paul Wellstone told us, is about the improvement of people’s lives. I know that the work I’ve been able to do has improved people’s lives. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
For a decade now, every time I would get tired or discouraged or frustrated, I would think about the people I was doing this for and would get me back up on my feet.
I know the same will be true for everyone who decides to pursue politics that is about improving people’s lives. And I hope you know that I will be fighting alongside you every step of the way. With that Mr. President, I yield the floor.