Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, has announced that he will resign. His resignation will become effective in the coming weeks.
Franken was originally accused of sexual assault by a woman named LeAnn Tweeden, who toured the Middle East with Franken when he was a comedian in 2005. Tweeden produced photographs of the former SNL host jokingly groping her, and claimed that he tried to kiss her against her will for a skit for the soldiers.
Franken originally apologized and suggested that he would not resign, but work to understand power dynamics between men and women and overcome them in his work moving forward. However, a second woman came out this week – a former Congressional aide – who said that he made similar advances on her.
As a result, six Democratic Congresswomen spoke out against Franken, urging him to resign. These included high-profile presidential hopefuls like Kamala Harris of California, and Kirsten Gillebrand of New York, but also several others who were friends with Franken but motivated by principle in asking him to step down.
Franken follows his counterpart in the House of Representatives, John Conyers. Conyers was the longest tenured Democrat in the House, but was forced to resign last week after facing his own sexual assault accusations. The Congressional Black Caucus had complained that Conyers was held to higher standards because he was forced to resign while Franken remained in office. Now, however, both have acquiesced to the party’s brand.
This decision will have political consequences, too. The main Republican accused of sexual assault is Alabama Senatorial candidate Roy Moore, who is still leading in polls despite an alleged encounter with a fourteen-year-old girl. Moore retains support from mainstream Republicans, including President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Franken’s decision to resign thus may establish a precedent that excludes all alleged sex offenders from Congress, denying Moore – and thereby Republicans – a seat in a traditionally red state.