Democrats Distance Themselves From Franken Following Groping Accusation
WASHINGTON — Democrats in the upper chamber distanced themselves from Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken since a radio host accused him of groping and forcibly kissing her.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Franken.
“Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated,” Schumer said in a brief statement. “I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.”
The report about Franken’s behavior toward KABC radio personality Leeann Tweeden surfaced in the wake of news that members of Congress have settled out $17 million sexual harassment claims. According to CNN, the settlements a report from the Office of Compliance shows the money was paid out over a period of 20 years between 1997 and 2017.
Franken apologized Thursday after accusations came out that he forcibly kissed Tweeden in 2006 during a USO tour and posed for a photo with his hands on her breasts as she slept.
“This is unacceptable behavior and extremely disappointing,” Senate Assistant Minority Leader Patty Murray said in a statement. “I am glad Al came out and apologized, but that doesn’t reverse what he’s done or end the matter. I support an ethics committee investigation into these accusations and I hope this latest example of the deep problems on this front spurs continued action to address it.”
“These types of actions are simply unacceptable and should be reviewed by the Ethics Committee. Women across America should be able to feel safe in their workplace, and they deserve our support when coming forward with allegations of misconduct,” Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth said Thursday.
California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris told reporters she was “troubled” by the reports about Franken. “There should be an ethics investigation and we will see where that ends up,” she said.
Franken’s fellow Minnesota senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar, said in a statement to KMSP Fox9, “This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden.”
She continued, “I strongly condemn this behavior and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation. This is another example of why we need to change work environments and reporting practices across the nation, including in Congress.”
Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin told MSNBC Thursday, “This type of behavior isn’t acceptable whether it’s from a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent.” She added, “I am glad that it is going to the Ethics Committee in the Senate for an investigation.”
Baldwin, along with other Democrats also announced she would donate all of Franken’s contributions.
“I will say for my part, I will be donating campaign contributions from Sen. Franken to a women’s veteran initiative in the state of Wisconsin,” she said.
New Hampshire Public Radio reports that the state’s Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan and Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster all announced support for the ethics investigation Thursday.
New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a member known for anti-sexual assault legislation, told The Hill, “They are deeply concerning, and I expect to hear more from Sen. Franken,” she said of the allegations. New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen did not comment, noting she is a member of the Ethics Committee and cannot make statements about the case she is reviewing.