WASHINGTON – Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced his resignation Thursday morning from the Senate floor.
“Serving in the United States Senate has been the great honor of my life,” Franken said. “Today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.
Franken’s resignation comes after eight women accused the senator of sexual assault. Franken said he was “shocked” by the allegations.
“I was shocked. I was upset,” Franken said. “All women deserve to be heard, and their experiences taken seriously.”
“Some of the allegations against me are simply not true, others I remember very differently,” Franken added.
Despite leaving the Senate, Franken assured he would not stay silent, saying he would be “fighting alongside you every step of the way.”
“Let me be clear, I may be resigning my seat, but I am not resigning my voice,” Franken said.
The fallout began three weeks ago when Leeann Tweeden, a news anchor for a morning radio show, came forward last week saying Franken “kissed and groped” her without consent while on a USO Tour Overseas in 2006, offering photographic evidence.
“You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed,” Tweeden wrote in a post on KABC’s website.
Lindsay Menz was the second woman to come forward with accusations of sexual assault against Franken. Menz said Franken grabbed her buttocks during a photo-op at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, leaving her feeling “violated” and “embarrassed.”
Two more women, who remain anonymous, shared similar stories to Menz’s, saying the senator grabbed their buttocks.
Another woman, army veteran Stephanie Kemplin, told CNN Franken groped her in December 2003 while she was deployed in Kuwait. Kemplin alleges Franken, in the Middle East on a USO Tour, grabbed her breast during a photo-op.
“When he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast. He kept his hand all the way over on my breast,” Kemplin told CNN. “I’ve never had a man put their arm around me and then cup my breast. So he was holding my breast on the side.”
About the same time Kemplin shared her story, an unnamed former elected official in New England told Jezebel Franken tried to give her a “wet, open-mouthed kiss” during a live taping of Franken’s Air America show.
“I reached out my hand to shake his,” the woman told Jezebel. “He took it and leaned toward me with his mouth open. I turned my head away from him and he landed a wet, open-mouthed kiss awkwardly on my cheek.”
The woman, who describes her politics as liberal, said she was “stunned and incredulous” and believes the accusations against Franken from other women.
On Wednesday, two more women accused Franken of sexual assault.
A former congressional aide told Politico Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his Air America radio show in 2006. The woman, whose name is withheld, said Franken blocked her as she was leaving the studio and tried to kiss her. The former staffer told Politico she had to duck to avoid his lips, and rushed out of the room as Franken said, “It’s my right as an entertainer.”
Franken denied the woman’s story, telling Politico the claims were “preposterous.”
Another woman said Franken touched her inappropriately her during a photo-op. Writing a piece for The Atlantic, Tina Dupuy alleges Franken groped her while taking a photo in 2009 during a Media Matters party during the first Obama inauguration.
“We posed for the shot,” she wrote in The Atlantic. “He immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh. I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice.”
With the allegations piling up, Franken began to lose the support of his Democratic colleagues. By Wednesday, more than 30 senators had come out against Franken, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) released a statement calling for Franken’s resignation.
“I consider Senator Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has a higher obligation to his constituents and the Senate, and he should step down immediately,” Schumer said.
Despite the pending announcement, Franken’s office denied plans to resign even as late as Wednesday afternoon. However, after spending time talking with his family, Franken decided to comply with the calls for resignation.
Gov. Mark Dayton must now select a temporary replacement to fill Franken’s empty seat. The successor will serve until the 2018 election, where there would be a special election to determine who would finish the final two years of Franken’s term. Another election would be held in 2020 for a full six-year term.
Watch Franken’s resignation announcement here.