Since the Harvey Weinstein accusations flooded the airwaves back in October, it seems that everyday a new male “power” figure is put on blast for past and current sexual harassment charges. This morning Minnesota Senator Al Franken announced his resignation following sexual misconduct allegations.
Franken’s resignation was called upon by his fellow Democratic senators, including Kristen Gillibrand of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Kamala Harris of California. Even the chairman of the Democratic National Convention, Tom Perez, asked for the senator to resign. “Sen. Al Franken should step down,” he said. “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.”
This recognition of wrongdoing is a stark contrast to the Republican political party’s view of Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore. Moore has been accused of initiating an unwanted sexual encounter on a 14-year-old girl in 1979. Unlike the Democratic party, the Republican party has not only stayed silent on Moore’s accusations, but now have Trump endorsing him in the upcoming special election on December 12. This, however, should come as no shock to Republican critics seeing as this country elected a man that knowingly and admittedly sexually harassed many women.
On the senate floor this morning, Franken said the following:
“I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate. Over the last few weeks a number of women have come forward to talk about how my actions had affected them. 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.”
These eight women have accused Franken of groping and kissing without consent, as well as unwanted sexual advances. Whether or not his bad memory is the truth, at least the senator acknowledged the sensitivity and urgency to take women’s stories seriously. That’s more than the Republican party can say.
Prior to today’s statement, Franken issued a series of apologies a few weeks ago when the allegations came out, including, “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.”
Although his apology and resignation doesn’t erase his actions, his action signals a change in political culture. It may seem small, but it’s a step in the right direction.