WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Half of Democrats in the US Senate on Wednesday (Dec 6) called for fellow party member Senator Al Franken of Minnesota to resign after new allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
Franken, who had said he planned to remain in office, said on Twitter he would make an announcement on Thursday. He offered no further details.
The calls from the 23 senators marked the first time that Franken’s Democratic colleagues had publicly pressed for him to step down since the allegations began nearly three weeks ago. They were joined by the party’s chairman, Tom Perez.
Another Democratic senator, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, has privately pressed Franken to step aside, an spokeswoman said.
“I’ve struggled with this decision because he’s been a good senator and I consider him a friend,” Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, one of ten female Democratic senators calling for Franken’s resignation, wrote on Twitter. “But that cannot excuse his behaviour and his mistreatment of women.”
Franken is one of several prominent American men in politics, media and entertainment to be accused in recent months of sexual harassment and misconduct.
News website Politico reported on Wednesday that a congressional aide said Franken had tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006, before he was first elected as a senator. Franken denied the latest allegations, Politico said.
Franken earlier apologised for his behaviour and said he would cooperate with a US Senate Ethics Committee investigation.
Reuters has not independently verified the claims against Franken.
Democrats are seeking the moral high ground in the wake of numerous sexual misconduct allegations against public figures, including Republican Senate candidate for Alabama Roy Moore and Democratic Representative John Conyers, who resigned on Tuesday. Both of those men have denied the allegations against them.
Several Republican lawmakers initially called on Moore to step out of the race, but have since said the decision is ultimately up to Alabama voters. President Donald Trump has endorsed the candidate. The election is next Tuesday, Dec 12.
In addition to Senators Hirono and Warren, Senators Tammy Baldwin, Maria Cantwell, Dianne Feinstein, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Maggie Hassan, Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill, Debbie Stabenow and third-ranking Senate Democrat Patty Murray all called for Franken’s resignation.
That represents three-quarters of the 16 Democratic party women in the Senate. They were joined by 11 male Democratic senators, including the No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin.
Franken, a former comedian who rose to national prominence as a cast member on the long-running television programme Saturday Night Live, had been considered a rising star in the Democratic party since he was first elected in 2008.
Gillibrand told reporters that Democrats had been “having conversations” about Franken for a while, and that she decided to call for Franken’s resignation after new accusations were made against him.