Calling it “the worst day of his political life,” Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken said Thursday he will resign from the U.S. Senate following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against him that ranged from groping to forcibly trying to kiss women.
Franken, who said that some of the complaints against him were “simply not true” and that he remembers others “differently,” also took a parting shot at President Trump.
“There is some irony in the fact that I am leaving office 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 supoort of his party,” Franken said, referring to Trump and Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama.
About 18 Democratic senators, staff and family members were on hand for the announcement. Some sat stone-faced while others cried during the 11-minute speech. His staff were lined up in the back of the chamber.
Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan was the only Republican senator present.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar were also in attendance. They were among the lengthy list of Democrats pressuring Franken to resign.
“As he and I discussed yesterday, this is the right decision,” Klobuchar said in a statement.
Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said he had a "detailed conversation" with Franken Wednesday evening.
"He did what I suggested -- and he did the right thing -- so I'm just going to leave it there," Kaine said.
It will be up to Minnesota Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to appoint a successor.
Multiple sources reported that the likely candidate could be Democratic Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a close ally of Franken. The successor would serve until a special election is held in 2018 to determine who would fill the final two years of Franken’s term.
On Wednesday, Franken faced a tidal wave of resignation calls by members of his own party.
By mid-afternoon, 23 of them wanted him gone. By Thursday, the number had grown to 36.
“Enough is enough,” Gillibrand said Wednesday.
Her sentiment was echoed by Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Marie Hirono of Hawaii, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
“Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere. I believe the best thing for Senator Franken to do is step down,” Harris, D-Calif., said.
Hassan, D-N.H., tweeted, “It is clear that Al Franken has engaged in a pattern of egregious and unacceptable behavior toward women. He should resign."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, weighed in.
“It now appears Senator Franken has lost the support of his colleagues, and most importantly, his constituents,” McConnell said.
“I do not believe he can effectively serve the people of Minnesota in the U.S. Senate any longer,” he added.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, the largest newspaper in Franken’s home state, called for his immediate resignation late Wednesday. They questioned his ability to “function effectively” after “losing the confidence of so many colleagues.
“If this is to be an actual turning point in our culture, there must be real and lasting consequences to behaviors that never should have been accepted,” the editorial board wrote. “That these incidents came so late in Franken’s life should make him all the more accountable. Instead, he has mostly offered hollow apologies that failed to acknowledge what happened.”
Franken’s political career has been in peril since California radio broadcaster Leeann Tweeden posted a blog detailing how he kissed and groped her without her consent in 2006. She also tweeted a picture showing a grinning Franken standing over her as she sleeps, his hands over her breasts.
Franken has since apologized, but other allegations from seven additional women have surfaced since Tweeden’s claims.
The latest was a woman who claimed she was groped at a Media Matters party during the first Obama inauguration.
Before that, another woman accused Franken of forcibly trying to kiss her – this time after a taping of his radio show in 2006.
The woman, who spoke to Politico, claims Franken pursued her after her boss had left and she was collecting her things. The woman was in her 20s at the time.
The accuser, who was not identified, said Franken tried to kiss her but that she ducked.
Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" performer who was a host on the now-defunct "Air America" radio network at the time, allegedly followed up by telling her it was his “right as an entertainer.”
“He was between me and the door and he was coming at me to kiss me,” she told Politico. “It was very quick and I think my brain had to work really hard to be like ‘Wait, what is happening?’ But I knew whatever was happening was not right and I ducked.”
Franken has strongly denied those allegations.
The calls for Franken to step down came after Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., retired following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
In Alabama, several women have accused Moore, the Senate Republican candidate, of sexual misconduct when they were in their teens, including one who said she was 14 when Moore molested her.
Moore denies the allegations.
Trump -- who had multiple allegations of sexual harassment against himself when running for president -- has endorsed Moore.
The Republican National Committee is also supporting him.