News and Commentary

‘Champion Of Women’: Democrat Al Franken Resigns Amid Groping Scandal

Apparently, he’s not good enough, he’s not smart enough and, doggone it, people don’t like him.

Sen. Al Franken on Thursday announced that he would be stepping down from his Senate post “in the coming weeks.” The Minnesota Democrat couldn’t survive allegations from eight women that he groped them sexually. His sudden fall comes a day after 36 Democratic senators called for him to resign.

With his departure, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, will appoint someone to take his place, which means the Senate’s makeup — 52 Republicans, 48 Democrats — won’t change.

In an 11:45 a.m. speech on the Senate floor, Franken first denied that he’d done what the victims say he’d done. “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” he said. “Others I remember very differently.”

When the first allegations emerged, Franken said, “I was shocked. I was upset.” But he said he wanted to be respectful, “because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously.” And he offered an apology to the first woman, who he was shown groping in a now infamous photograph.

“I also think it gave people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done,” Franken said of his admission.

Franken then said that he thinks he would’ve been cleared at the conclusion of a planned Senate investigation.

“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.”

Franken said that while men often use their power to abuse women, he noted, “I am proud that during my time in the Senate I have used my power to be a champion of women, and that I’ve earned a reputation of someone who respects the women I work alongside every day.”

“I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I am,” Franken said. “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,” he said.

Then, as expected, Franken lashed out at President Trump.

“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 on a 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. And it’s 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,” he said.

Franken’s lightning fast fall began Wednesday, when six Democratic women in the Senate came out to say they just couldn’t stick up for Franken anymore, not after a seventh woman came forward to allege the former comedian had tried to force himself on her sexually.

“While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said in a statement on Facebook.

That prompted nearly all the rest of the Senate Democrats to step up and take a stance against Franken.

But the whole sweater unraveled in record time after that. By mid-afternoon, 22 Democratic senators had called for Franken to return to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. By the end of the day, more than 35 had done so.

Even Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York bailed on the former comedian from Brooklyn and one-time star of “Saturday Night Live,” a New York institution.

“Senator Franken should resign. I consider Senator Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has a higher obligation to his constituents and the Senate, and he should step down immediately,” Schumer said.

The beginning of the end started on Wednesday, when another woman came forward to accuse Franken. “A former Democratic congressional aide said Al Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006, three years before he became a U.S. senator,” Politico reported.

That brought the number to seven. By the end of the day, an eighth woman had emerged, saying the Democrat groped her in 2009 at a Media Matters party during Barack Obama’s inauguration. Oh, the irony.

On Thursday, Franken said he has a loving family and will survive.

“I’m going to be just fine,” the Democrat said.

Perhaps just like his “Saturday Night Live” character, Stuart Smalley — who would stare into a mirror and say “I deserve good things” and “I refuse to beat myself up” — Franken can take solace in the way his character would sign off each show: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”