Al Franken resigned his U.S. Senate seat in December of 2017 after several women accused him of various degrees of sexual misconduct. Democrats are still arguing about it, even into the 2020 presidential campaign.
Some Democrats, including a few major donors to the party, have continued to defend Franken and vowed never to support any of the candidates who pushed for his resignation. This has largely fallen upon Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a presidential candidate who was the first Senate Democrat to call for Franken’s resignation.
Now, another Democratic presidential candidate has been asked about Franken.
When asked on an MSNBC town hall Monday whether Franken should have resigned, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg replied, “I think it was his decision to make, but I think the way we basically held him to a higher standard than the GOP does their people has been used against us.”
When asked by host Chris Matthews if it was right for Democratic politicians to pressure Franken to resign, the candidate replied, “I would not have applied that pressure at that time before we knew more.”
According to The Daily Beast, Buttigieg recently had a fundraiser in California hosted by Susie Tompkins Buell, one of the Democratic donors who told The New York Times last year that she was reconsidering her support for Democrats who had pushed for Franken’s resignation.
Franken, the longtime Saturday Night Live writer and on-screen performer who went on to write multiple best-selling books about politics, was elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota in 2008 and re-elected to a second term in 2016.
Mayor Pete said tonight he wouldn’t have called for Franken’s resignation—weeks after he fundraised with a major Dem donor who sharply criticized (and threatened to no longer support) Gillibrand and others for pushing Franken to resign. By @GideonResnick https://t.co/nFqVixfTGI— Sam Stein (@samstein) June 4, 2019
In late 2017, a picture surfaced of Franken appearing to grope a sleeping woman while on a USO tour many years earlier, and in the days afterward, other women came forward, with some claiming Franken had touched them inappropriately while posing for pictures. Per Forbes, Franken apologized for some of the incidents and claimed not to remember others, while agreeing to go along with a Senate ethics inquiry into the matter.
But in December of 2017, Gillibrand called for Franken to resign, and was followed by two dozen other Democratic Senators. He did indeed, that same month.
The idea that Franken was treated unfairly persisted in the months afterward, including a February 2018 Newsweek story that was published, and later retracted, claiming that “Russian bots” had led to the senator’s resignation.
Other Democrats, however, maintain that it was important for their party to take the higher road, in taking sexual harassment claims seriously.