The senator said that he wanted to be “respectful” of the women who came forward with allegations against him, but that he believes that “gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that I, in fact, haven’t done.”
Franken is the second Democratic member of Congress in the span of a week to step down in the midst of allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women. On Tuesday, Democratic congressman John Conyers announced his retirement after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, though he denied wrongdoing.
More than a half-dozen women have alleged sexual impropriety by Franken in recent weeks. The floodgates opened last month when radio host Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of groping her while she was asleep in 2006.
Franken has tried to walk a fine line as more allegations have emerged from women who say that he groped or tried to kiss them without their consent. He has expressed regret and apologized for any offense he may have caused, while frequently saying that he either does not recall the incident unfolding the way it was described or at all. On Thursday, Franken said: “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true, others I remember very differently.”
Minnesota’s Democratic governor Mark Dayton will now have the opportunity to appoint a Democrat to fill the Senate seat until a special election can be held to replace Franken. Politico reported on Wednesday that Dayton is likely to tap Tina Smith, the current Minnesota lieutenant governor. On Thursday, Dayton said that he plans “to make and announce my decision in the next couple of days.”
Franken initially appeared reluctant to step down, and hopeful that he could weather the political storm. At a press conference at the end of November, the senator said that while he was “sorry” and that he wanted to work to regain trust. But, he said, he was “gonna go back to work.” Franken also said that he would cooperate with a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into the allegations.
After the initial allegations, however, more accusations continued to emerge. As that happened, frustration from Franken’s fellow senators became more evident. On Tuesday, Democratic Senator Kristen Gillibrand said that she “believe[s] the women” who have made allegations against Franken, though she stopped short of saying he should step aside.
Then on Wednesday, Politico and The Atlantic both published accounts of women alleging misconduct by the senator.
A former Democratic congressional aide told Politico that in 2006 Franken tried to kiss her, despite her attempts to evade him, saying at one point “it’s my right as an entertainer.” Franken called the accusation “categorically not true.” In The Atlantic, Tina Dupuy wrote that Franken groped her in 2009 while the two posed for a photo. “We posed for the shot. He immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh. I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice,” she wrote.