The US Senate is reeling from one woman’s account of how she was kissed without her consent and groped in 2006 by Democratic Sen. Al Franken before he was elected.
Many of Franken’s colleagues have condemned his behavior, but both Democrats and Republicans have referred the case to the Senate ethics committee to investigate.
Franken, of Minnesota, has since issued a lengthy apology, saying although he doesn’t remember kissing the woman, “I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.”
Here’s what Franken’s Senate colleagues are saying:
Sen. Chuck Schumer, of New York, said in statement: “Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated. I hope and expect that the ethics committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, of Illinois, said in statement: “There is never an excuse for this behavior — ever. What Senator Franken did was wrong, and it should be referred to the ethics committee for review.” When asked if the accusations could lead to Franken’s expulsion, Durbin told CNN, “It could lead to any number of things. It’s not fair to prejudge it or judge what the committee will do.”
Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington, the highest-ranking woman in the Senate, issued this comment: “This is unacceptable behavior and extremely disappointing. I am glad Al came out and apologized, but that doesn’t reverse what he’s done or end the matter. I support an ethics committee investigation into these accusations and I hope this latest example of the deep problems on this front spurs continued action to address it.” She also told CNN later that these are “serious accusations” and said in response to the question of whether they could lead to Franken’s expulsion: “Obviously. But we need to know the facts first. We need to know what they are, but then we can make that decision.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York, supports an ethics investigation into Franken, according to an aide. Gillibrand has been a vocal advocate for sexual harassment victims, and introduced a bill this week on the issue. In an off-camera interview with CNN, she said, “The allegations are very troubling and very concerning, and I think there should be an ethics investigation.” She said she had not spoken to Franken. When asked if Franken should be expelled if the allegations are true, she only reiterated there should be an ethics investigation.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, said in a statement: “This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior and the Senate ethics committee must open an investigation. This is another example of why we need to change work environments and reporting practices across the nation, including in Congress.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill, of Missouri, tweeted, “Re Al Franken: I’m shocked and concerned. The behavior described is completely unacceptable. Comedy is no excuse for inappropriate conduct, and I believe there should be an ethics investigation.”
Sen. Bill Nelson, of Florida, said in a statement: “Sexual harassment is never acceptable. The Senate ethics committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as I believe they should.” His re-election campaign also canceled an appearance with Franken this weekend.
Sen. Joe Donnelly, of Indiana, said in a statement: “I agree with Senator McConnell that the Ethics Committee should review this matter. What Senator Franken did is wrong and regardless of political party, sexual harassment and sexual abuse are unacceptable.”
Sen. Gary Peters, of Michigan, told reporters off camera that the allegations he’s heard are “very disturbing ” but he has not had a chance to fully read up and want to do so before he talks about any next steps.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, said in a statement: “As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter. I hope the Democratic Leader will join me on this. Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable — in the workplace or anywhere else.”
CNN’s Manu Raju, Tal Kopan, Juana Summers, MJ Lee and Kristin Wilson contributed to this report.