Al Franken said he “absolutely” regrets resigning from the U.S. Senate in 2017 amid the firestorm over accusations of inappropriate behavior by the comedian turned politician.
In a new profile by Jane Mayer published Monday in The New Yorker, seven current and former senators said they also regret calling for his resignation in December 2017: Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, Illinois’ Tammy Duckworth, Maine’s Angus King, Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, Florida’s Bill Nelson, and New Mexico’s Tom Udall.
Franken told Mayer that he now wishes that he had followed through on his request to appear before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing so that he would have had time to gather evidence to counter what he felt was a false narrative in the media based in part on anonymous accusers.
The New Yorker piece also sheds new light on the accusations by conservative talk radio host Leeann Tweeden that Franken forced an unwanted kiss on her during a 2006 U.S.O. tour that was the center of her accusations. Franken was pressured to resign in December 2017 after seven more women accused him of inappropriate touches or kisses.
Two actresses told the New Yorker they had performed the USO skit featuring a handsy doctor played by Franken in 2003 — well before Tweeden joined the USO tour — and therefore it was not written for her, as Tweeden had said in her statement. Others who were on the 2006 tour questioned her account as well.
Franken also told the New Yorker that New York’s Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, threatened to have the entire Democratic caucus demand his resignation and said Franken could be censured and stripped of his committee assignments if he decided to stay on.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Franken told the magazine. “I asked him for due process and he said no.”
A Schumer spokesperson had no comment. Reps for Franken and Tweeden did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Harvard’s Laurence Tribe posted a link to the piece and suggested that Franken’s “fall” was “an avoidable tragedy” while blaming Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand for her role in his ouster.
Attorney and analyst Imani Gandy had the opposite reaction: “I am muting Franken’s name. I cannot believe we are doing another round of woe is Franken.”
Gillibrand is also quoted in the New Yorker, defending her decision to call for Franken’s resignation. “I’d do it again today,” she said.