Six former and current Senate Democrats and one Senate Independent have expressed regret over calling for former Democratic Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s resignation in 2017 following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Tom Udall of New Mexico as well as Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine all told Jane Mayer of The New Yorker that they regretted their roles in forcing Franken out of the Senate in an article published Monday. (RELATED: Al Franken Rips Senate Democrats For Being Flaccid)
Leahy referred to his decision to call for Franken’s resignation as “one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made” during his 45 year Senate tenure, Merkley referred to the situation as a “rush to judgement,” while King called it “the political equivalent of capital punishment.”
Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—who retired in Jan. 2017—also defended Franken, and called him a “very fine senator.”
“It’s terrible what happened to him. It was unfair. It took the legs out from under him,” Reid said.
Franken himself also said that he “absolutely” regretted his decision to resign, and said he wished he had gone before the Senate Ethics Committee to defend himself. Franken stepped down in Dec. 2017, and was replaced by Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, who won a special election last year to finish out Franken’s term. (RELATED: Gillibrand: ‘We All Miss’ Al Franken, But He Had To Go)
Smith will run for a full term in 2020, and Franken himself has not ruled out a run for office in the future.
The 68-year-old Franken said in a 2018 interview with CBS that he missed his job as a senator.
“I miss the whole job. I loved that job, I loved the job as Senator … It was very meaningful for me and bittersweet, I would like to still be there,” he said at the time.