Some Democrats Express Regret Over Calls for Franken to Resign: 'Made Me Sick'

Al Franken / Getty Images
December 18, 2017

Some Senate Democrats are expressing remorse over the push by their caucus for Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) to resign over past allegations of sexual misconduct, with one saying his colleagues' treatment of Franken sickened him.

"What they did to Al was atrocious, the Democrats," Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) told Politico.

After a seventh accuser against Franken came forward on Dec. 6, a flood of Senate Democrats beginning with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) released statements calling for his resignation.

Franken announced a day later he would resign his seat in the coming weeks; on Friday, he revealed he would step down in early January. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D.) announced the appointment of Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D.) to replace him last week.

Franken was notably defiant in his resignation speech, saying it was ironic he was stepping down when President Donald Trump was still in office with misconduct accusations against him as well. He also did not apologize to the women who have accused him of past groping and unwanted kissing, saying some of the allegations against him were false.

According to Politico, however, Franken does not plan to change his mind and is already working with Smith on the transition.

Manchin said he was disgusted by Democrats who watched his resignation speech and hugged him afterwards, despite calling for his ouster.

"The most hypocritical thing I’ve ever seen done to a human being—and then have enough guts to sit on the floor, watch him give his speech and go over and hug him? That’s hypocrisy at the highest level I’ve ever seen in my life. Made me sick," Manchin said.

Manchin added he hoped Democrats who led the call for him to resign would change their mind and encourage him to stay until the ethics process finished.

"I hope they have enough guts ... and enough conscience and enough heart to say, ‘Al, we made a mistake asking prematurely for you to leave,'" he said.

"That’s the human and decent thing to do. If they have any decency in them, they’d do that," Manchin added. "Every one of them that signed for him to go out—including Chuck Schumer—should do that."

Another Senate Democrat—who initially called for Franken to resign and asked to not be named—told Politico they acted prematurely.

"I think we acted prematurely, before we had all the facts," the senator said. "In retrospect, I think we acted too fast."

Politico also reported Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) told Franken privately he regretted his public call for him to resign. The report stated two other senators told the outlet they felt rushed to weigh in on Franken and didn't weigh the matter appropriately.

Gillibrand is not among those feeling remorse, however, nor is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.).

"Schumer and the vast majority of the caucus like Sen. Franken and will miss him, but did what they felt was best and stand by it," said a Senate Democratic leadership aide.