Resigning, Al Franken Declares Himself a ‘Champion of Women’
Under fire for groping allegations, the outgoing senator from Minnesota shows no contrition, no remorse, takes swipe at Trump
An unrepentant Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) obliged a swelling chorus of calls from Democratic senators Thursday by promising to resign in the wake of multiple sexual groping allegations, but not before declaring himself a “champion of women.”
From the content of the speech on the Senate floor, a viewer might have been confused about why Franken was resigning. The explanation he offered during his address is that an Ethics Committee investigation — which he previously had welcomed — would have robbed his constituents of the representation they deserve.
"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," he said. "Let me be clear: I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice … Minnesotans deserve a senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the challenges they face every day."
Franken did not mention in his 11-minute speech that 32 of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate called on him Wednesday to step down.
At least six women have accused Franken of inappropriately touching them, with the latest coming via a report in Politico about a woman who says the senator tried to kiss her forcefully during a taping of his radio show in 2006.
Franken made sure to mention that he votes the right way.
"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 as someone who respects the women I work alongside every day," he said.
Franken has offered quasi-apologies since the first allegation surfaced — along with a photo — of his behaving badly, on a USO tour before winning election to the Senate. On Thursday, he explained those statements by saying that women's experiences deserve to be taken seriously. But he did not admit guilt or accept responsibility.
"I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution," he said. "And I am confident that the Ethics Committee would agree."
Franken quickly pivoted to an attack on President Donald Trump, referencing an old "Access Hollywood" tape in which the future president discussed grabbing women. He also mentioned Roy Moore, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Alabama.
"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," he said.
Moore has denied all of the accusations against him, and Trump has dismissed the "Access Hollywood" tape as "locker room" talk.
PolitiZette writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]