Democrats are cleaning house, demanding full accountability when it comes to sexual misconduct.
On Wednesday, half a dozen Democratic women in the Senate called on their colleague Al Franken resign in the wake of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
“It’s time for him to step aside,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington in a lengthy statement. “For some time I have talked about returning the word respect to our language, to our actions, and to our politics. That has to start at the top. We must lead by example.”
Murray also called on others to join her in demanding accountability. “Rather than justifying one person’s behavior for your own political purposes,” she said, “join me and so many others in making clear that we will not accept it — regardless of party, position, or celebrity.”
Several others — including Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono, New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, California’s Kamala Harris, and Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin — called for Franken’s resignation in quick succession. Other Democrats, from Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Sherrod Brown of Ohio to Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, soon followed.
In November, KABC Radio news anchor Leeann Tweeden published a story accusing Franken of groping and kissing her without her consent during a USO tour in 2006.
In a transparent attempt to score political points, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately demanded an ethics investigation — despite continuing to support admitted sexual predator Donald Trump, as well as accused child molester Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
Unlike Trump and Moore, however, Franken apologized for his behavior and agreed to fully cooperate with an investigation, promising to make amends for the harm his behavior had caused.
When a new allegation emerged Wednesday — the same day TIME Magazine named the women who have come forward in the #MeToo movement to out sexual predators as its Person of the Year — it was obvious that Franken’s apologies were not enough.
Franken’s office has said he will make an announcement on Thursday, and while it is not known what he will say, it certainly seems likely that he will not remain in the Senate.
The forceful calls for Franken’s resignation come one day after Michigan Democrat John Conyers announced his resignation from the House, after severals of Conyers’ Democratic colleagues called on him to step down in the wake of his own sexual misconduct allegations.
The way Democrats have reacted to the serious allegations against some of their most respected leaders stands in stark contrast to the Republican Party. When the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump bragging about sexual assault was released in 2016, several Republicans issued statements of condemnation, attempting at first to distance themselves, but they ultimately continued to support him. None of them called for an investigation.
The party has followed the exact same pattern with Moore, who faces extremely serious allegations of molesting and harassing teenagers in a way that was so public, he was banned from the local mall.
When those allegations first broke, Republicans criticized Moore and some even called on him to drop out of the race. But Moore made it clear he would do no such thing and instead launched vicious smears against his many accusers.
Trump’s spokespeople attempted to keep some distance between Moore and the president, but Trump ultimately doubled down on his endorsement of Moore. Others, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and counselor Kellyanne Conway, did the same, essentially arguing that it was better to have an accused pedophile who would support Trump’s legislative agenda than a Democrat who would not.
Sexual harassment and assault knows no party or industry. Certainly, the #MeToo movement has reminded us this year just how ubiquitous it is. Several high-profile men have lost their jobs as a result. There are undoubtedly more to come.
What matters in the face of such charges — whether they involve harassment in the work place, or the far more serious charges of assault and child molestation — is accountability.
Trump faced no consequences last year for his behavior. As Rachel Crooks, who accused Trump last year of exactly the behavior he described on tape, recently asked, “Why is he immune to this?”
He should not be. Nor should Moore. Nor should anyone, regardless of party, be immune.
Democrats are leading the way in holding their own members accountable. One can’t help but wonder if Republicans ever will.