Kirsten Gillibrand, a senator from New York, is running for president in 2020 as a Democrat. The major issues that she’s pushing in the campaign, per her ActBlue fundraising page, include universal health care, a push to end gun violence, paid family leave for all, and campaign finance reform.
But one particular issue has dogged Gillibrand’s campaign: her role in the December 2017 resignation of Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.
Franken resigned following multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment, including a photo that surfaced that appeared to depict Franken groping a sleeping woman while on a USO tour years earlier. Gillibrand, who for years had been a leading voice on the issue of stopping sexual assault in the military, was the first Democratic senator to call for Franken’s resignation. Several other Democratic senators followed her, leading to Franken deciding to resign his seat.
Gillibrand’s role in the episode has led to a great deal of pushback from Democrats who believe that Franken got a raw deal. Democratic donors, per Politico, have cited the Franken issue as a reason to not support Gillibrand for president. “After what she did to Al Franken” is a common sentiment on Twitter and other social media sites.
Sen. Gillibrand answers a questions about the Al Franken scandal, and addresses her role in calling for his resignation from the Senate. https://t.co/Ib8NJylLWt
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 19, 2019
Speaking at a town hall Monday night on MSNBC, Gillibrand addressed the Franken episode and made it clear that she doesn’t regret the role she played in the former senator’s departure.
“This is a very hard issue for so many Democrats,” Gillibrand said. “Because the truth is we miss him, and people loved him. But, he had eight credible allegations against him, of sexual harassment for groping. Two of them while he was a senator, and the eighth one that came out was a congressional staffer… I had a choice whether to stay silent or not, whether to say it’s not okay with me. And if there are few democratic powerful donors who are angry because I stood up for women who came forward with allegations of sexual harassment, that’s on them.”
I know the issue of Sen. Franken is hard for many Democrats. But he had eight credible sexual harassment allegations against him, and I had to choose whether to stay silent, or not. If some megadonors have a problem with that, that's on them. pic.twitter.com/POLWcTQUsY
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) March 19, 2019
Gillibrand added that even after her call for his resignation, Franken could have continued to fight the charges, sue his accusers, or refuse to resign. The senator added that she was having tough discussions with her sons at home at the time, which helped form her views.
While some Democrats have attacked Gillibrand for her Franken stance, others have praised her, noting that it put the Democrats in a stronger position when Republican Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore was accused of sexual misconduct, also in December of 2017.