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  • The office of Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is seen in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday morning, Dec. 7, 2017. Facing fresh allegations of sexual misconduct, the former comedian who made his name on Saturday Night Live faces a chorus of calls to step aside, and Democratic senators said they expected their liberal colleague to resign. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2017, file photo, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., listens during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Franken, facing fresh allegations of sexual misconduct and vanishing support from fellow Democrats, appears on the brink of resigning from the Senate. Franken's office said he will make an announcement Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in a speech on the Senate floor. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

  • In this Nov. 27, 2017 photo, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington. Franken is denying an accusation by a former Democratic congressional aide that he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Thursday, December 07, 2017 12:10 pm

Sen. Franken to resign amid fresh accusations

ANDREW TAYLOR | Associated Press

 

WASHINGTON -- Minnesota Democrat Al Franken, facing fresh sexual misconduct allegations and vanishing support from fellow Democrats, announced he would resign Thursday.

A majority of the Senate's Democrats called on the two-term lawmaker to quit after a woman emerged Wednesday morning saying he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006. Hours later, another woman said Franken inappropriately squeezed "a handful of flesh" on her waist while posing for a photo with her in 2009. That brought the number of women alleging misconduct by Franken to at least eight.

Franken, the former comedian who made his name on "Saturday Night Live," has gained respect as a serious lawmaker in recent years and has even been mentioned in talk about the 2020 presidential campaign.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a fellow Democrat, would name a temporary replacement. The winner of a special election in November would serve through the end of Franken's term in January 2021. Among the possibilities is Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a trusted ally.

"Enough is enough," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York declared on Wednesday. "We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable, and we, as elected leaders, should absolutely be held to a higher standard."

A torrent of Democrats quickly followed Gillibrand.

"I'm shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken's behavior," said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state. "It's clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time. It's time for him to step aside."

Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a statement, "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."

Franken has acknowledged and apologized for some inappropriate behavior, but on Wednesday he vehemently denied the new accusation that came from a former Democratic congressional aide, who said he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006.

The woman, who was not identified, told Politico that she ducked to avoid his lips but Franken told her: "It's my right as an entertainer."

Franken said the idea he would claim such conduct as a right was "preposterous."

The pressure on him to leave mounted this week after Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., resigned following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct. Rep Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., faces pressure to resign as well over allegations reported by Buzzfeed that he repeatedly propositioned a former campaign worker.

While Franken apparently is departing, Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore could be arriving, if he prevails in a Dec. 12 special election. Multiple women have accused the 70-year-old Moore of sexual misconduct with them when they were teens and he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s. If Moore is elected, it could create a political nightmare for Republicans, who have promised an ethics probe.

A national conversation about sexual harassment has intensified this fall after the heavily publicized case of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was accused of many acts of sexual misconduct, including rape, by actresses and other women. Just Wednesday, Time magazine named as its person of the year the "silence breakers" — women who have come forward on sexual harassment.

Punishment has been swift for leaders in entertainment, media and sports while members of Congress have tried to survive the onslaught of allegations.

Franken already faced a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into previous claims by several other women that he groped them or sought to forcibly kiss them.

The allegations began in mid-November when Leeann Tweeden, now a Los Angeles radio anchor, accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour in Afghanistan.

Other allegations followed, including a woman who says Franken put his hand on her buttocks as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Two women told the Huffington Post that Franken squeezed their buttocks at political events during his first campaign for the Senate in 2008. A fourth woman, an Army veteran, alleged Franken cupped her breast during a photo on a USO tour in 2003.

Franken has apologized for his behavior but has also disputed some of the allegations.

For more on this story, visit www.journalgazette.net later today or see Friday's print edition of The Journal Gazette.

Juliet Linderman of the Associated Press in Washington and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, contributed to this report.