Commentators across the spectrum of American politics are wondering whether the move by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to resign “in the coming weeks” over a long list of groping allegations will give his party the “moral high ground” against Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has denied claims of sexual assault by three women and “inappropriate” behavior by six others.
Franken read a statement Thursday on the floor of the U.S. Senate in which, after announcing his resignation and claiming many of the allegations against him are false, he lashed out at President Trump and Moore. He said, however, he would resign because he believed it was in the best interest of the citizens of Minnesota.
“I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator, nothing has brought dishonor on this institution, and I am confident that the Ethics Committee would agree. Nevertheless, today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate,” he said.
More than half a dozen allegations followed the claim of KABC on-air personality Leeann Tweeden, who accused Franken of kissing and groping her without her consent while she was asleep during a USO tour before Franken’s election.
Franken insists he doesn’t recall the kissing encounter the way Tweeden described it.
Tweeden substantiated her claim of groping with a photo that shows Franken with his hands over her breasts while he smiles for the camera.
With Franken’s coming departure, as well as the announcement this week of the retirement of Sen. John Conyers, D-Mich. — who had been accused of misbehaving with a multitude of women — the Democrats are setting the stage to claim they are the ones who are cleaning house.
Their immediate target is Judge Roy Moore, the GOP Senate candidate in Alabama who continues to lead in polls ahead of the Dec. 12 special election for the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The ultimate target is President Trump, who was caught in the “Access Hollywood” videotape publicized by Democrats during the 2016 election making vulgar comments about women in his banter with a colleague.
Franken on Thursday claimed that he was “hopeful” that the current conversation would turn toward protecting women from predators, until the “conversation turned to me.”
The senator said he wanted to respond respectfully to the accusations, but in doing that he “gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done.”
“I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” he said.
The left-leaning Daily Beast’s Michael Tomaski warned that Democrats may regret establishing the precedent that they now have.
He said some behavior is wrong, but other behavior is more wrong.
“They’ve circumvented process and the principle of hearing from both sides. They’ve completely ignored the possibility that a person can reform himself (maybe Franken used to be a sexist jerk but has genuinely changed; aren’t liberals supposed to welcome that?) And they’ve blurred the line, which I think should exist, between different categories of sexual crimes, some of which are obviously worse than others. The day will almost surely come when they’ll regret having established these precedents.”
His point was that those who are accusing Moore of misbehaving 40 years ago – claims that Moore has denied – have a much stronger case than those who say Franken misbehaved with them.
“So Al Franken is out. It was the right thing for him to do. I guess. What he did was wrong. It wasn’t asking-a-14-year-old-girl-to-take-her-clothes-off wrong, but it was wrong,” the Beast commentary said.
“Two thoughts nag at me,” he continued. “First, there’s some opportunism at work here. And second, if the Democrats think that taking the high ground on this one is going to score them any points, my bet is they’re sadly mistaken.
“This is where I see some opportunism at work, in two ways. First, let’s cut to the chase: Do you think we’d have heard all these calls for his resignation from his Democratic colleagues if Minnesota had a Republican governor? No way. Maybe a couple senators would, but as a group they wouldn’t be nearly so cavalier about dumping him if they knew a Republican was going to replace him. And that’s fine; that’s politics. Newsflash: Politics is political. But it does make me take these high-moral-ground statements of his colleagues with a few grains of salt.”
He continued: “Second, obviously, the Democrats are hoping to present to America a contrast between them and the Republicans. … The Democrats want to be able to say: See, when Al Franken and John Conyers are discovered to have done wrong, we don’t equivocate. We take care of it. Meanwhile, look at those Republicans. They’re all-in behind Roy Moore, whose alleged attacks on women make Franken’s look awfully tame.”
At NBCNews.com, Jonathan Allen and Leigh Ann Caldwell explained how the Democrats “tried to seize the moral high ground.”
The “Democratic dam” regarding Franken’s behavior burst Wednesday, they said, with a statement by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
“I think when we have to start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation,” she said. “You need to draw a line in the sand, say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable, and we as elected leaders should absolutely be held to a higher standard not a lower standard.”
Earlier in the week, Conyers, who had been accused of sexually harassing aides, quit and immediately volunteered his son to take his place.
At the time the Tweeden photo emerged, Franken had been a rising star among Democrats. Some had even suggested his name as a potential Oval Office candidate.
But Tweeden’s photo bomb changed that. She alleged he forcibly kissed her, stuck his tongue into her mouth and badgered her for days. Later, other women brought similar allegations forward.
Newsweek compiled a list of Franken statements, including when he “once joked about child rape during a comedic roast of film director Rob Reiner.”
Franken, the magazine said, “laid out a scene where Reiner’s father, Carl, would invite famous friends over to rape his son.”
At that time, Franken quipped: “On a typical night, Carl would slip into Rob’s bed, roll him over, swab him down and say something like, ‘I’m thinking about hiring Morey Amsterdam to play Buddy Sorrell, what do you think?’ Well, the success of The Dick Van Dyke Show changed things dramatically. Carl started inviting many of his famous friends to —- his son. That list includes some of the greats in comedy: Paul Lynde, Dom DeLuise, Rip Taylor, Danny Kaye, Charles Nelson Reilly and Rock Hudson – whom I frankly don’t think is that funny.”
The report said Franken also “joked” about raping “60 Minutes” reporter Lesley Stahl.
“And, ‘I give the pills to Lesley Stahl. Then, when Lesley’s passed out, I take her to the closet and rape her.'”
He also “joked” in Playboy magazine about “creating an Institute for Pornographic Studies where he performed sex acts with humans and robots,” the Newsweek report said.
“I found myself extremely attracted to the vulnerable side of this sexy scientist, and when I offered to comfort her, she accepted, kissing me full on the lips and inserting her tongue into my mouth and moving it around suggestively,” Franken wrote.
He then describes sex acts in detail.
In the book “Pants on Fire, How Al Franken Lies, Deceives and Smears,” author Alan Skorski explains that Franken’s fame came from his books “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot” and “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”
According to Skorski’s book, Franken’s nonstop “smears” were surprisingly unchallenged for a long time while he was a commentator and talk-radio host.
But eventually, Skorski found that Franken himself “regularly lies, smears and distorts what others say and do.”
The London Daily Mail reported the senator’s action, which left Tweeden feeling “belittled and humiliated,” pushed Franken over the edge from “Democratic darling to dirty old man.”
Dan McGrath of Minnesota Majority said his group’s investigation found incumbent Norm Coleman had more votes at the end of the polling, but Franken was given the seat after a recount.
According to records, at least 341 convicted felons voted in Hennepin County, where Minneapolis is located, and another 52 voted illegally in Ramsey County, home to St. Paul.
“The number of felons voting in those two counties alone exceeds … Franken’s victory margin,” according to the analysis.
In Franken’s second election, he edged out challenger Mike McFadden after Barack Obama’s unpopularity as president threatened the Democratic hold on the seat.
WND reported the Minnesota secretary of state, Mark Ritchie, who oversaw the senatorial recount that put Franken into office, was listed by the Communist Party USA as an official “friend.”
That followed WND’s earlier report that Ritchie was funded – and apparently continues to be supported – by prominent leaders of the radical left.
Among Franken’s campaign donors were members of the Democratic Socialists of America, founders of the socialist New Party; members of the Communist Party USA, or CPUSA; and even a former associate of the Weatherman domestic terrorist group founded by Bill Ayers.
Personalities from several George Soros-funded think tanks and the terrorist-supporting Code Pink also were on Ritchie’s donor list.
The Washington Post reported a Minnesota woman who had been working with Franken on legislation was raped by a man who had worked in Franken’s office.
The rapist, Daniel Drill-Mellum, pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct and was given six years in prison.
The victim said Thursday she no longer wants Franken’s name on the legislation when it is introduced and hopes to find someone else to sponsor it.
WND also was on hand when Melanie Morgan, a Los Angeles radio news anchor who is one of those alleging Franken harassed her, went to Franken’s Capitol Hill office with others demanding he resign.
She was joined by three of Bill Clinton’s accuser: Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and Leslie Millwee, who claims she was stalked and assaulted three times by Clinton while she was a TV reporter in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The women were accompanied by the founders of the new media publication Media Equalizer.
Watch Melanie Morgan and Bill Clinton’s accusers demand Franken’s resignation at his office on Capitol Hill:
Franken’s staff calling security:
Members of Franken’s communications staff eventually came out of their offices to explain that Franken was not available to comment.