Al Franken resigns over mounting allegations of sexual assaults but he has found the most unlikely ally
Following his resignation, Franken became the highest-ranking US politician to step down in the wake of mounting sexual assault allegations against some of the country's most prominent politicians.
Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken announced his decision to step down following a horde of allegations from multiple women that he either was sexually inappropriate with them or that he tried to force himself upon him. While as many as 35 of his Democratic colleagues raised their voices and called for his resignation, there was a show of support for the former comedian from the most unexpected sect: Republicans.
Though they may have had ulterior motives - the protection from such a fate of fellow party member and Alabama Senator Roy Moore and of course, president Donald Trump come to mind - the show of support was nonetheless surprising. Former House Speaker and potential Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich spoke about the resignation on Laura Ingraham's Fox News show on Wednesday, saying: "What you saw today was a lynch mob."
"Let's not have due process. Let's not ask anybody any questions. Let's not have any chance to have a hearing. Let's just lynch him, because when we get done lynching him, we'll be so pure," he added.
Gingrich was not the only Republican who felt that way either. His interviewer Laura Ingraham shared a similar opinion, questioning whether the Democrats were indeed doing this purely out of the moral reprehensibility they were feeling. She was of the belief that Democrats were using Franken's plight to forge a renewed assault on GOP candidates accused of similar deeds.
She was quoted saying: "They've come down with a sudden case of feverish morality. But what it really is, is nothing more than a political calculation by the Dems. They have now determined that it is worth sacrificing Franken, just like they did John Conyers — throw him overboard to save the political Titanic that is their party."
"What does this do? It sets the precedent for the Democrats to try to drive Roy Moore from office, should he win the Alabama Senate race. And two, this is the next step in the quest to impeach President Trump," she added.
Tucker Carlson, the popular conservative political commentator, termed Franken's resignation as 'good riddance,' but went on to question the circumstances surrounding which the Minnesota Senator was forced to take the extreme step.
According to The Washington Post, Carlson said: "Enjoy the schadenfreude, the pure animal thrill of watching a powerful person knocked from a high perch, but at the same time, ask yourself, what if this happened to you? Imagine being accused by someone whose name you didn’t know of something that supposedly happened more than a decade ago. How would you respond? How could you respond? What if you were innocent, by the way? And what if nobody cared?"
Ari Fleischer, who served as the White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, and Bryan York, Washington Examiner's chief political correspondent, both conservative mainstays, also came out to support Franken with tweets that questioned the legitimacy of his forced resignation.
Franken should not have resigned. His fate should have been left 2the people of MN. Moore, who had sexual contact w a 14-yr old, should drop out. Conyers, who hit on his employees, should have resigned. Franken is a creep who acted inappropriatly, but his facts are different.— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) 7 December 2017
Seems clear Franken is toast; impossible to see him surviving. Of course, Dems are acting quickly to clear decks so they can make Roy Moore, in the words of @brithume, the 'hood ornament' of the Republican party. 1/3— Byron York (@ByronYork) 6 December 2017
But there's reason to be concerned about kangaroo court justice of the college campus coming to US Senate. In 90s, when Bob Packwood was accused of sexual misconduct, he got full due process; ethics committee worked for three years before he resigned ahead of expulsion. 2/3— Byron York (@ByronYork) 6 December 2017
Now, with Franken, instead of three years, it's three weeks, with latest allegations coming just hours ago. Now maybe three years was too long. But maybe three weeks is too short. There's reason to be concerned about what comes next. 3/3— Byron York (@ByronYork) 6 December 2017
Franken's behavior first came into the spotlight after a 2006 photo of the Senator showed him groping the breasts of sleeping Los Angeles radio anchorwoman Leeann Tweeden. His poorly written apology which suggested 'it was intended to funny,' drew further ire. But the allegations did not end there, with six other women coming out soon after accusing him of behaving inappropriately with them.
While most Democratic Senators were shuffling their feet and putting off any hasty comments after these slew of accusations, what did it in for Franken was the most recent proclamation from a former Democratic congressional aide. The aide, who was in her mid-20s at the time, claimed that the Senator had forcibly tried to kiss her by telling her that it was 'his right as an entertainer.'
Franken initially denied the allegation in its entirety, telling Politico in a statement: "This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation."
Hours after the story was published on Wednesday, many Democratic Senators, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, called on Franken to resign. The voices calling for him to step down became louder as Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Kamala Harris of California, Patty Murray of Washington, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire joined the protest.
Soon after, his male colleagues turned on him as well. Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez, Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio all released statements calling for his resignation.
The wheels were now well and truly in motion, with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer reportedly working throughout yesterday urging Franken to step down. According to an aide close to Schumer, he met with Franken and his wife at their Washington apartment before any of those statements were made by his colleagues and urged him to resign.
Franken's resignation speech was both defiant and apologetic at the same time. He announced that he would be stepping down in the coming weeks and that 'all women deserve to be heard and have their experiences taken seriously.' He did appear to come across as insincere, with his response to the allegations against him being that he 'gave some people the false impression that I was admitting doing things that I hadn’t done.'
He continued: "I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator – nothing – has brought dishonor on this institution," adding that " even today, even on the worst day of my political life, I feel like it’s all been worth it. I know that the work I’ve been able to do has improved people’s lives. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat."
However, he did take a potshot at Trump and Moore before departing, saying: "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."
Franken's seat will be occupied by a Democrat appointed by Minnesota's governor Mark Dayton, with many predicting he will nominate his lieutenant governor and former chief of staff Tina Smith.
Franken isn't alone in this storm. Longest-serving African American House member John Conyers (D-Michigan) resigned after multiple female aides accused him of harassing them. On a similar note, Republican representative Trent Franks also said he was stepping down after being hit by ethics charges while the House Ethics Committee said it was also investigating Texas lawmaker Blake Farenthold over allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation involving a former female staff member.
While this could be political maneuvering by the Democrats in order to weaken the Republicans' positions on Moore, and to a lesser extent president Donald Trump, it does come at an opportune time. Time magazine only recently announced that the Silence Breakers aka the #MeToo movement is the Person of the Year for 2017, and it appears that the party is showing that such sexually misappropriate behavior should not go unpunished. The ball is now in the GOP's court.
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