On Thursday, in an emotional speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) resigned. The senator was facing a number of sexual harassment allegations, but in his speech, he admitted no wrongdoing and did not apologize for any of his alleged behavior.
“I am proud that during my time in the Senate I have used my power to be a champion of women and that I’ve earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside every day,” Franken said. “I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am. Serving in the United States Senate has been the great honor of my life. I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution.”
While Franken tried to use his speech Thursday to speak about what he sees as a glowing personal record of respecting women, however, some of his alleged victims say they were frustrated by his remarks.
Lindsay Menz, who accused Franken of groping her at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, said she was disappointed that Franken used the speech to continue to deny any wrongdoing.
“I guess I’m a little disappointed by his statement,” Menz told CNN. “Just that he would continue to dismiss and put the allegations down.” Menz also said she felt badly that Franken had to leave a job he was passionate about, but, she said, she also feels “bad that this is our culture. I feel bad that we’ve allowed men to behave this way.”
Menz wasn’t the only accuser who was upset by Franken’s insistence that “some of the allegations against [him were] simply not true” and that “others [he] remember[ed] very differently.”
Stephanie Kemplin, who has accused Franken of groping her during a photo op in 2003, told HLN that she would have been happy to testify under oath before the ethics committee about her experience, adding, “It’s very hurtful…. He’s taking no ownership and I just feel that he’s calling all of us liars.”
“My story will never change. Because it’s the truth,” Kemplin added. “It is the truth. And I would have had no problem [testifying]. I was waiting for the subpoena.”
Franken did not apologize for any of his alleged behavior during the speech, instead vowing to continue speaking out on issues he cares about. Without admitting any wrongdoing on his part, Franken also called for President Trump, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women, and Roy Moore, who is running to fill Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat in Alabama and has been accused of sexual misconduct by nine women, many of whom were teenagers at the time, to follow his lead.
“I 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,” he said. “But this decision is not about me. It’s about the people of Minnesota.”
Leeann Tweeden, a California radio show anchor who accused Franken of forcibly kissing her and groping her, told CNN she wasn’t celebrating Franken’s resignation but that she was glad she came forward.
“I’m not celebrating his resignation but we also can’t tolerate hypocrisy. We can’t have our leaders saying one thing and doing another,” Tweeden said.
Tweeden also said she was disappointed by Franken’s denials of any wrongdoing. “Can you say seven other women are liars and possibly more?” she asked.
Franken’s resignation comes just two days after Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) also announced his retirement in the midst of sexual harassment and abuse allegations. Two women have spoken publicly, alleging Conyers abused or harassed them while they worked for him. Another woman alleges she was fired after rejecting Conyers sexual advances and ultimately settled a wrongful dismissal claim. Four other women signed affidavits saying Conyers harassed them, too.
While Conyers’ departure was significantly less graceful than Franken’s (he endorsed his son on a local radio show before saying he was going to “retire” and said his legacy “can’t be compromised”), both men have denied any wrongdoing up until the end.
“Look, this goes with the issue of politics, the game of politics, which we’re in,” Conyers said Tuesday when he was asked about his accusers. “We take what happens, we deal with it, we pass on and move on forward as we keep going, trying to make as much as we can of this tremendous opportunity that’s been given me for so long.”
If Franken’s and Conyers’ fates are a sign of what’s to come, there could be a slew of resignations in the coming days.
Last week, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) was publicly named as the first sitting member of Congress known to have used a Congressional account to settle an $84,000 sexual harassment claim brought by his former communications director in 2015. Farenthold announced that he would pay back the $84,000 Monday. Top Democrats — including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — have also called for. Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) to resign after BuzzFeed reported that Kihuen allegedly sexually harassed his campaign finance director during his congressional race.
Additionally, on Thursday, Roll Call reported that Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) was expected to resign, although details about his departure were scant. One source told Roll Call Franks was facing accusations of “inappropriate behavior”, prompting Franks’ office to clarify that it would issue an explanatory statement “later.”