Gillibrand: 'Outrageous' to blame her and female senators for Franken

"Who is being held accountable for Al Franken’s decision to resign?" Gillibrand said Monday. "Women senators, including me. It’s outrageous. It’s absurd.”
Image: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks at a presidential candidate forum on July 16, 2019 in Bettendorf, Iowa.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand at a presidential candidate forum on July 16 in Bettendorf, Iowa.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

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By Allan Smith and Benjamin Pu

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said Monday that she had no regrets about calling for Al Franken to resign from the Senate over sexual misconduct allegations.

Her quotes followed a New Yorker story in which seven current or former Democratic senators expressed regret for calling on Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, to resign last year. Gillibrand was the first senator to come forward.

"Senator Franken wasn't denied anything," Gillibrand said at a Mic/Bustle Digital Group town hall event in Manhattan on Monday. "It's his decision and his alone whether to wait out his ethics committee hearing, whether to wait for his next election. The decision I made was whether or not to carry his water and stay silent. And given eight allegations, two since he was senator, and the eighth one being a congressional staffer, I couldn't stay silent."

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Gillibrand said she "could have told" those who now regret pushing for Franken's ouster that “there is no prize for someone who tries to hold accountable a powerful man who is good at his day job."

"But we should have the courage to do it anyway," she said, adding: "So no. I do not have any regrets."

“Let’s be clear, there is absolutely a double standard,” Gillibrand continued. “Women are asked to hold accountable their colleagues; the men are not. Who is being held accountable for Al Franken’s decision to resign? Women senators, including me. It’s outrageous. It’s absurd.”

Gillibrand's presidential campaign has failed to gain traction in the 2020 primary season's early months, and some on the left have blamed her for Franken's exit.

“I’d do it again today,” Gillibrand told The New Yorker. “If a few wealthy donors are angry about that, it’s on them.”

Meanwhile, Franken told The New Yorker that he "absolutely" regrets resigning from the Senate in January 2018 after several women accused him of sexual harassment.

The New Yorker's story calls into question the first of the allegations, from conservative talk radio host Leeann Tweeden. Tweeden released a 2006 photo of Franken reaching toward her breasts as if to grope her while the two were on a USO tour. She also said he forcibly kissed her.

CORRECTION (July 23, 2019, 10:15 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated in one instance when Al Franken resigned from the Senate. It was in 2018, not 2017.