Democrats tell scandal-hit Franken to quit US Senate

FILE PHOTO: Senator Al Franken (D-MN) watches Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington March 21, 2017. Photo: Reuters

WASHINGTON - US Senator Al Franken on Wednesday faced a sudden deluge of demands -- led by more than half the women senators in his Democratic Party -- for his resignation after multiple claims of sexual misconduct against him.

Franken has acknowledged misconduct with at least one accuser. He apologized last month and vowed to work to regain the trust of his colleagues and voters. 

But with six other women now reportedly coming forward to accuse Franken of touching them inappropriately, a chorus of Democratic senators, ten women and seven men, said it was time for him to go.

"Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere. I believe the best thing for Senator Franken to do is step down," Senator Kamala Harris said in a tweet.

As calls for the 66-year-old Minnesota lawmaker's resignation mounted, Franken's office said on his official Twitter account that the senator would make an announcement on Thursday, although no details were provided.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's Facebook post appeared to be the opening Senate salvo against Franken Wednesday, as she declared that the nation -- and Congress -- faced a "moment of reckoning" regarding sexual misconduct.

"We should demand the highest standards, not the lowest, from our leaders," she said.

"While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn't acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve."

Wave of accusations

The Senate's number two Democrat, Dick Durbin, called for Franken's departure, as did the Democratic National Committee's chairman, Tom Perez.

The pressure comes just one day after Democrat John Conyers, the longest serving member of Congress, left the House of Representatives after several female former staffers accused him of sexual misconduct.

And it follows a wave of accusations of harassment against titans in the worlds of entertainment, the media and politics, which began with claims targeting movie mogul Harvey Weinstein earlier this year.

As a consequence of the unfolding scandals, the Senate and House of Representatives both voted to make anti-harassment training mandatory for all lawmakers and staff.

The specter of sexual misconduct is also overshadowing a high-stakes US Senate race in Alabama.

Republican Roy Moore, a former Alabama supreme court chief justice, has been accused by several women of sexually molesting them when they were teenagers -- one was 14 at the time -- and he was in his thirties. 

President Donald Trump, who himself faced sexual misconduct accusations when he was a candidate, has endorsed Moore in the closely watched special election set for December 12.

Franken is a former comedian who made his name on the popular late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live. 

He was first accused last month by sports broadcaster and former model Leeann Tweeden, of forcibly kissing her, and touching her without consent as she slept, during a 2006 tour entertaining US troops deployed in Afghanistan.

He had appeared determined to ride out the scandal, apologizing and saying he would work diligently to regain people's trust as he returned to Washington.

But with accusations mounting, many Democrats -- ever mindful of how the scandal could impact their efforts to gain congressional seats in next year's mid-term elections -- turned on their colleague.

AFP

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