Wyden Defends Franken: ‘He’s Called for an Ethics Inquiry’

Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) defended fellow Democrats accused of sexual misconduct on Monday, saying that committee investigations are enough to resolve the problems.

CNN’s Jake Tapper outlined the groping and sexual harassment allegations against Democratic Sen. Al Franken (Minn.) and Democratic Rep. John Conyers (Mich.) and asked whether Democrats are right not to call on them to step down. Wyden replied that he didn’t want to draw any conclusions, saying Franken was right to call for an investigation, even though a photograph was released showing him with his hands over broadcaster Leann Tweeden’s breasts.

"What do you make of the argument by some liberal columnists that…by not demanding they step down, Democrats are ceding any high ground on this sexual harassment issue?" Tapper asked.

"Well, with respect to Senator Franken, these are obviously serious allegations," Wyden replied. "He's called for an ethics inquiry. I think that's appropriate and I want to see the results."

Congressional ethics committees have faced criticism recently, including from Rep. Kathleen Rice (D., N.Y.), who accused them of not providing "real" accountability. Wyden, however, treated Franken’s apology as sincere and said the ethics inquiry is appropriate.

"As of now I think it's appropriate that there be an ethics inquiry," Wyden said. "He's made it clear again today that he is, to quote him, ‘ashamed.’ It's appropriate to have the ethics inquiry, and that's how I think he ought to go forward."

Franken called for the ethics committee investigation soon after Tweeden made her accusation, but since then he was also accused of groping a woman at the Minnesota State Fair. He has apologized for how women felt and said he cannot "remember" whether he did what he's accused of, and his Democratic colleagues have mostly stood by his decision not to step down.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) has used her leadership position to defend Conyers from the accusation against him. Conyers, Congress’s longest-serving member, faces a wide range of harassment allegations, but Pelosi called for due process in his case and said he is an "icon."