WASHINGTON -- Sen. Al Franken said he would resign from the U.S. Senate on Thursday following mounting allegations of sexual harassment and loss of support by fellow Democrats, a stunning and rapid fall for a Minnesota politician who followed decades as a successful TV comic with a rise to the highest echelons of U.S. political power.
"Minnesotans deserve a senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the issues they face every day," Franken said in speech late Thursday morning on the floor of the U.S. Senate. He said he would resign "in the coming weeks."
Franken said that "I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator, nothing, has brought dishonor on this institution." But he said he determined he could no longer be an effective senator for Minnesota.
While stressing he wanted to be respectful of what he called a broader conversation about mistreatment of women by powerful men, Franken sought to clear his name of the allegations against him.
"I know there's been a very different picture of me painted through the last few weeks, but I know who I really am," Franken said. Of the claims against him by more than half a dozen women, he said: "Some of the allegations aren't true. Others I remember differently."
And he sought to draw a distinction between himself and two Republicans also accused of mistreatment of women, President Donald Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
"I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape of his history of sexual assault is in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls has the full support of his party," Franken said.
Franken's resignation has major ramifications for Minnesota politics. Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint a replacement for his fellow DFLer, and the seat will then be on the ballot in November 2018. That means both of Minnesota's U.S. Senate seats and the governor's office will be up for election last year.
A Democratic source told the Star Tribune that Dayton is likely to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, and that she is not expected to run in the special election.
Franken, who had been a vocal champion of women's rights and a popular, in-demand spokesman for various progressive causes, found himself caught up in a growing cultural movement around outing bad behavior toward women by men in positions of power. By abandoning Franken along with former U.S. Rep. John Conyers, who resigned earlier this week, Democrats are drawing a distinction between their party and Republicans at a time when Trump has thrown his full weight behind Moore, accused of sexual abuse of underage girls.