Several female Democratic senators on Wednesday publicly called on Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, to resign. Several of their male colleagues followed.
A flood of Democratic senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, publicly called on Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, to resign on Wednesday as he faced new accusations of sexual misconduct.
The first senators to release statements included a group of female Democratic senators — Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Patty Murray of Washington, Kamala Harris of California, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.
"I have been shocked and disappointed to learn over the last few weeks that a colleague I am fond of personally has engaged in behavior towards women that is unacceptable," Gillibrand, a prominent advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, wrote in a statement on Facebook. "I consider Senator Franken to be a friend and have enjoyed working with him in the Senate in our shared fight to help American families."
She continued: "We have to rise to the occasion, and not shrink away from it, even when it's hard, especially when it's hard ... I have spent a lot of time reflecting on Senator Franken's behavior. Enough is enough. The women who have come forward are brave and I believe them.
By Wednesday afternoon, dozens of members of the Senate Democratic caucus had called on Franken to step down. A representative for Franken said the senator would make an announcement on Thursday, with speculation suggesting that he would bow to calls to resign.
Hassan wrote that Franken had "engaged in a pattern of egregious and unacceptable behavior toward women."
"He should resign," the New Hampshire lawmaker wrote.
The senators called for zero tolerance for any form of sexual harassment or abuse.
"Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere," Harris wrote in a tweet.
They were soon followed by their male colleagues, including Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
"I agree with my colleagues who have stepped forward today and called on Senator Franken to resign," Casey tweeted. "We can't just believe women when it's convenient."
Brown added that Franken was "entitled" to a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into his past conduct and that it would help determine how Congress should deal with future complaints. Franken has repeatedly promised to "cooperate completely."
Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also released a statement on Twitter calling on Franken to step aside.
Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Dick Durbin of Illinois joined the calls within hours.
Earlier Wednesday, a seventh woman accused Franken of sexual misconduct. The woman, a former Democratic congressional aide, says Franken attempted to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006, three years before he became a senator.
Franken insists he doesn't remember meeting the five women who have accused him of groping them during photo ops, and he says he has a different recollection of a 2006 incident with Leeann Tweeden, a California TV and radio host who says Franken groped and forcibly kissed her.
Franken has said he is "ashamed" by the allegations and apologized to the women who have felt disrespected by his behavior.
"I know that I am going to have to be much more conscious in these circumstances — much more careful, much more sensitive," Franken said during a press conference last week, adding, "It's going to take a long time for me to regain people's trust, but I hope that starting work today that I can start to do that."