How Democrats Are Responding to the Franken Assault Allegation

How Democrats Are Responding to the Franken Assault Allegation

How Democrats Are Responding to the Franken Assault Allegation

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Nov. 16 2017 1:43 PM

How Democrats Are Responding to the Franken Assault Allegation

Democratic Sen. Al Franken at a judiciary subcommittee hearing on Oct. 31.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer abruptly canceled an afternoon press conference on Thursday morning, as the Democratic conference was rattled by allegations that one of their own, Sen. Al Franken, had kissed and groped a woman without her consent.

TV and radio host Leeann Tweeden wrote that Franken "aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth" while they rehearsed for a USO skit in 2006, and she included a photograph that appeared to show Franken groping her as she slept. Franken apologized in two statements on Thursday, but Republicans quickly seized on the allegations, calling on Democrats across the country to return donations from Franken.


Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for an Ethics Committee investigation—a call that was soon joined by Schumer and a number of Franken's fellow Democrats.

“Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated," Schumer said in a brief statement. “I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.”

Even before Schumer’s statement, members of the Ethics Committee were declining to comment on the allegations, on the possibility that the matter might come before them. Other members of the Democratic conference said they owed it to Franken to hear from him about the allegations. Franken himself endorsed an ethics investigation in a statement.

Here’s a rundown of what’s been said so far:


Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “Sexual harassment and groping are never OK, they’re never funny. And Senator Franken will have to address the allegations.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: “I’m a member of the ethics committee and so I can’t comment on it.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto: “I’m just learning about it, very sad to hear about it.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy: “It’s something I didn’t expect from Sen. Franken, but I’ll let him speak to it.”

Sen. Tom Carper: “I think I should go vote. I don’t like to miss votes, and there’s one that’s going on right now. I’m on my way to vote.”

Sen. Maggie Hassan: “Any allegation like the ones against Sen. Franken are very, very serious, we should take them seriously.”

Sen. Chris Coons: [said in response to several questions] “As a member of the Ethics Committee I cannot comment on any matter that has come before the committee, may come before the committee, or on the decision-making process of the Ethics Committee.”

Sen. Tim Kaine: “Well, the behavior’s unacceptable. And it sounds from his own statement that he’s not denying it.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “Well, I don’t know anything about it, I’ve just heard. And I’ve learned, don’t comment before you know what you’re commenting about.”

Sen. Joe Manchin: “Well, I’m sure he’ll be talking to us at the caucus...I just want to hear from Al. I just want to hear Al’s explanation. We owe that to Al.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill: “I’m shocked and concerned. The behavior described is completely unacceptable. Comedy is no excuse for inappropriate conduct, and I believe there should be an ethics investigation.”

Sen. Gary Peters: “Well, what I’ve seen so far is disturbing. But I haven’t really had a chance to read the article… but certainly on the surface, it’s disturbing.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar: This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation. This is another example of why we need to change work environments and reporting practices across the nation, including Congress.

Sen. Dick Durbin: “There is never an excuse for this behavior—ever. What Senator Franken did was wrong, and it should be referred to the Ethics Committee for review.”

Sen. Patty Murray
: “This is unacceptable behavior and extremely disappointing. I am glad Al came out and apologized, but that doesn’t reverse what he’s done or end the matter. I support an ethics committee investigation into these accusations and I hope this latest example of the deep problems on this front spurs continued action to address it.”

Sen. Kamala Harris: “Sexual harassment, misconduct, should not be allowed by anyone and it should not occur anywhere against anyone.”

Update November 16, 2017 4:15 P.M.: More responses as reported by the Washington Post:

Sen. Joe Donnelly: “I agree with Senator McConnell that the Ethics Committee should review this matter,” he said. Donnelly is up for reelection next year in a state that voted for Trump. One of his Republican opponents has called on Donnelly to return money that Franken raised for his reelection campaign. “What Senator Franken did is wrong and regardless of political party, sexual harassment and sexual abuse are unacceptable."

Sen. Angus King (I): "Sen. Franken has acknowledged it, I believe. I don’t really want to comment on it.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow: “Certainly it’s serious."

Sen. Ben Cardin: “I have not seen [the photo]. I’m going to take a look at it.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth: [on an ethics investigation] “I think that’s certainly something we should be considering, yes."

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chair Chris Van Hollen has said that the committee is reviewing Franken's status as a fundraiser and whether to return money he's raised.

Osita Nwanevu is a Slate staff writer.

Jim Newell is a Slate staff writer.