There may be more to come for former Senator Al Franken, who resigned his post in January after facing sexual misconduct allegations from multiple women.
At Sunday’s TimesTalk panel for women senators — which featured Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) — Klobuchar said she expects her former colleague and friend to make a comeback.
“He’s had two acts and he’s still going to have a third,” Klobuchar told the crowd of Franken.
The Minnesota Democrat said she’s stayed in touch with Franken, and spoke to him just this weekend.
Klobuchar didn’t join the cohort of Democrats who called for Franken to step down in December, when a photo of Franken apparently grabbing a woman’s breasts resurfaced. The photo led to a landslide of accusations from women who said they’d been groped or otherwise harassed by the congressman, who’d built a reputation partly based on his support for women’s equality.
Despite criticism from some that Franken had been forced out, Klobuchar maintained that Franken had made his own choice, one informed by the calculation that the allegations against him would make it difficult to do his job in the Senate.
Still, Klobuchar emphasized the need for “due process” amid the ongoing #MeToo movement, explaining that different kinds of misconduct might warrant consequences that vary in severity.
“As we’re dealing with a change in the workplace … we have to make sure there’s due process and graduated sanctions,” she said.
Women senators largely led calls for Franken to resign, but soon they were joined by dozens of other Democrats in the Senate, men and women alike, and, eventually, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“Senator Franken should resign,” Schumer said in early December. “I consider Senator Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has an obligation to his constituents and the Senate, and he should step down immediately.”
The day before Schumer’s statement, House Democrats had seen the end of a sexual misconduct scandal within its own ranks. Representative John Conyers just stepped down following sexual harassment allegations from former staffers, one of whom said Conyers threatened to fire her if she didn’t have sex with him.
That same week, Franken announced his resignation in a speech on the Senate floor.
“We are finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them,” he said. “The moment was long overdue … Then the conversation turned to me.”
Franken said some of the accusations he faced were “simply not true,” while others stemmed from interactions he remembered “very differently.”
Klobuchar isn’t the only Democrat to lament how things turned out for Franken.
“I am sorry that he’s leaving under these circumstances, but he is going to be remembered, and he’s going to have an opportunity to use his voice for others in the future,” Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said after Franken’s resignation speech.
Klobuchar, for her part, said at the time that she knew she and Franken would “stay friends forever.”