Hassan calls for Franken to resign; Sununu wonders what took so long

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

  • Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., takes the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July 2016. AP file

  • Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Al Franken listens on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 3 as then-FBI Director James Comey testifies before the committee on oversight of the FBI. Franken has spent much of his nine years as senator trying to shed his funnyman image and digging into issues. That rising trajectory has been interrupted by allegations that he forcibly kissed one woman and squeezed another’s buttocks without their permission. AP file

For the Monitor
Thursday, December 07, 2017

Sen. Maggie Hassan on Wednesday was one of the first of a large group of female Democratic U.S. senators who called on Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota to resign amid an increasing number of allegations of sexual misconduct.

“It is clear that Al Franken has engaged in a pattern of egregious and unacceptable behavior toward women, and he should resign,” Hassan said in a statement. “We are experiencing a sea change in our culture that is long overdue, and we must continue working to empower all women and do everything we can to prevent sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault.”

Her statement was released moments after that of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Others also speaking out included Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Patty Murray of Washington, Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein of California, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

By Wednesday evening, 19 male Democratic senators – including the top two ranking Democrats in the chamber – quickly joined their female colleagues in urging Franken to step down. As the push by his fellow Democrats gained momentum, Franken’s office said the two-term senator and former Saturday Night Live comedian would make an announcement on Thursday.

The calls for Franken to quit came a day after Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, who faced multiple sexual harassment allegations from former employees, announced he would immediately resign. And they came the same day that Time magazine named the “Silence Breakers” as the 2017 Person of the Year, recognizing the women who came forward with stories of sexual harassment and assault and helped spark a nationwide “me too” movement.

And next week, voters in Alabama will cast ballots for their new U.S. Senator, choosing between Democrat Doug Jones and GOP nominee Roy Moore, who faces multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

Hassan’s successor as governor, Republican Chris Sununu, questioned the timing of the announcement by Hassan and other Democrats for Franken to resign.

“I called for Roy Moore to get out of the race immediately. It’s a little disappointing that it took weeks for Gov. Hassan to come to the same conclusion about Al Franken when the allegations are so severe and so clear,” Sununu told the Monitor. “I have an absolute zero-tolerance policy for any of this type of behavior when it comes to public officials. Public officials should be held to a much higher standard.”

Asked whether he was disappointed that President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee in recent days announced they would once again support Moore, Sununu answered, “I said Roy Moore should get out of the race. I stand by that.”

Yet Sununu remains a supporter of the president himself. During the 2016 campaign multiple women accused Trump of past sexual misconduct, harassment and assault. Trump repeatedly denied the claims. And weeks before last year’s election, a leaked Access Hollywood recording from a decade earlier that showed Trump bragging about groping women nearly derailed his campaign.

New Hampshire’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, did not join the calls for Franken to resign Wednesday. Shaheen’s spokesman told the Monitor that she cannot comment because she sits on the Senate Ethics Committee, which has begun an inquiry into the sexual misconduct allegations against Franken.

The Ethics Committee began their investigation after Leeann Tweeden, a morning radio news anchor in Los Angeles, accused Franken of groping and forcibly kissing her during a USO tour in 2006, more than two years before Franken won election to the Senate.

Several other women came forward after that initial account to say that Franken had inappropriately touched them. Franken has repeatedly apologized for his behavior. Wednesday morning, just hours before the calls for his resignation by Democratic colleagues, another woman accused Franken of trying to forcibly kiss her during a 2006 radio show taping.

Controversy over powerful men sexually harassing women has dominated national headlines in recent weeks, and not just in politics. Two top media figures, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, were fired from their network morning news anchor positions, and actors including Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and Dustin Hoffman have lost work and faced public rebuke as a result of the wave of allegations.