In the wake of numerous allegations of sexual misconduct that began with a blog post by a TV host in mid-November, Al Franken gave up his Senate seat today while maintaining that he had not done anything bad enough to warrant his dismissal. Although the Minnesota Democrat said he still believes an Ethics Committee investigation is the proper venue in which to hash out the complaints against him, he said he could no longer be an effective senator with the allegations hanging in the air. Franken also took an opportunity to criticize President Trump and Senate candidate Roy Moore, both of whom have been accused of sexual assault, and both of whom have defiantly called their accusers liars.
Here’s the opening half of the speech:
“A couple of months ago, I felt that we had entered an important moment in the history of this country. We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them. That moment was long overdue. I was excited for that conversation, and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all across the country and in every part of our society.
“Then, the conversation turned to me. Over the last few weeks, a number of women have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them. I was shocked. I was upset. But in responding to their claims, I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard, and their experiences taken seriously.
“I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that, in fact, I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.
“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.
“You know, an important part of the conversation we’ve been having the last few months has been about how men abuse their power and privilege to hurt women.
“I am proud that, during my time in the Senate, I have used my power to be a champion for women – and that I have earned a reputation as 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 really am.
“Serving in the United States Senate has been the great honor of my life. 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.
“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.
“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. I will continue to stand up for the things I believe in as a citizen, and as an activist.
“But Minnesotans deserve a Senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the challenges they face every day.”