Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) announced Thursday he will step down at year’s end over allegations of sexual abuse and harassment during his tenure in Congress.
Franken has been accused by multiple women of sexual abuse and harassment, and had become the subject of an ethics investigation as a result. Wednesday, more than two dozen Senate Democrats called on him to resign, saying he could no longer effectively represent his constituents.
The farewell speech was reminiscent of his 1999 satirical novel Why Not Me, in which he wrote about a fictitious 2000 presidential campaign, his first 100 days in office after winning, and ultimately his resignation in disgrace over—of all things—a sex scandal. Regarding the current allegations, he said he had been happy to see the change in the national discussion about sexual abuse allegations, but then the discussion turned toward him.
"Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember quite differently … I am confident I would prevail in the ethics committee."
Franken noted the “irony” that he was leaving the Senate over allegations when President Donald Trump had “admitted to sexually abusing women,” and while former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore “preyed upon young girls” has the full support of the Republican Party. But, he added:
"Serving in the Senate has been the great honor of my life … This isn’t about me, it’s about the people of Minnesota. I can’t both pursue the ethics committee process and remain an effective representative for them."
The former “Saturday Night Live” comedian broke into politics with a nationally syndicated political talk radio program that was broadcast by the liberal Air America network. He frequently used the platform to ridicule Republicans and conservatives.
Franken won the 2008 election over Sen. Norm Coleman by a little more than 300 votes in a decision that was contested all the way to the state supreme court. He joined the Senate in July 2009 as the junior senator from Minnesota, becoming one of the chamber’s staunchest supporters of “universal healthcare” at birth.
He won re-election in 2014 with 53 percent of the vote.