Minnesota Senator Al Franken announced Thursday that he would step down following accusations of sexual misconduct.
"I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate," Franken said in a heartfelt speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. He also stated that some of the allegations against him were untrue and acknowledged the irony of stepping down while President Trump remains in office.
"Over the last few weeks a number of women have come forward to talk about how my actions had affected them," said Franken. "I was shocked. I was upset. But in responding to their claims I also wanted to be respectful of the broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously. I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven't done. Some of the allegations against me simply are not true. Others I remember very differently."
At least eight women, including model and TV host Leeann Tweeden, came forward in recent weeks to accuse Franken of inappropriate behavior, with the allegations ranging from groping and kissing without consent to unwanted sexual advances.
Franken's resignation comes a day after many of his fellow Democratic senators – including New York's Kristen Gillibrand, California's Kamala Harris, Ohio's Sherrod Brown and Missouri's Claire McCaskill – called upon Franken to step down from his role on Wednesday.
"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. 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," Gillibrand wrote in a statement Wednesday.
"But this moment of reckoning about our friends and colleagues who have been accused of sexual misconduct is necessary, and it is painful. We must not lose sight that this watershed moment is bigger than any one industry, any one party, or any one person."
Gillibrand continued, "As elected officials, we should be held to the highest standards—not the lowest. The allegations against Sen. Franken describe behavior that cannot be tolerated. While he's entitled to an Ethics Committee hearing, I believe he should step aside to let someone else serve."
Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez echoed the calls for Franken's resignation. "Sen. Al Franken should step down," Perez tweeted. "Everyone must share the responsibility of building a culture of trust and respect for women in every industry and workplace, and that includes our party."
Bernie Sanders added, "Sen. Franken has said that he will be making an announcement about his political future tomorrow. The right thing is for him to resign. We are now at a crossroads in American culture. And it is an important one. The way we treat women in our country has been abysmal in almost every way. We are finally addressing the issue of sexual harassment, and we need to get it right. But the conversation we are having now is only the tip of the iceberg. It needs to be an ongoing movement of women and men that includes a national discussion about sexism, sexual harassment, objectification, inequality and abuse of power."
Alabama senatorial candidate Doug Jones also called for Franken to step down Tuesday. Roy Moore, Jones' Republican opponent in next week's special election, is being backed by the Republican National Committee and many GOP lawmakers, despite the multiple child molestation and other sexual misconduct allegations against him.
Franken initially stated he would cooperate with an ethics investigation but ultimately resigned before that occurred.
Franken's resignation comes two weeks after the senator issued a second apology amid additional accusations against him. "I've thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I've made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again. And let me say again to Minnesotans that I'm sorry for putting them through this and I'm committed to regaining their trust."
Franken's former Saturday Night Live female cast mates previously penned a letter defending him as "a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer and an honorable public servant."
Franken is the second Democratic member of Congress to step down amid sexual misconduct allegations. On Tuesday, Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the longest serving active congressman in Washington, resigned after sexual harassment claims against him were reported.