Gillibrand, a Democratic White House hopeful who was the first of the nearly three dozen senators to demand Franken’s resignation, was asked during the event about a piece in the New Yorker magazine in which Franken said he “absolutely” regrets stepping down in 2017 prior to a hearing by the Senate Ethics Committee.
The piece also raised questions about the account of Franken’s first accuser, conservative talk-radio host Leeann Tweeden and cited seven current and former senators who said they were wrong to demand Franken’s resignation.
One of them, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), called his decision to seek Franken’s resignation before getting more facts “one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made” in a Senate career that stretches more than four decades.
At the Monday event, hosted by the Bustle Digital Group, Gillibrand pointed out that the New Yorker piece focused heavily on the first allegation against Franken. Seven more accusations later surfaced from women who alleged unwanted kisses or inappropriate touching.
“There was really no critical or investigative journalism or reporting on the other seven, and that certainly causes me pause,” Gillibrand said. “He had eight credible allegations against him — two since he was senator, and the eighth one happened to be a congressional staffer. Now I could have told those seven senators, and any of the senators — the 35 senators who came out against him — 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. So no, I do not have any regrets.”
Gillibrand, one of the Senate’s most outspoken members on issues of sexual harassment and military sexual assault, also asserted “a double-standard” in how male and female senators were questioned about Franken.
She said female senators were asked whether Franken should resign “every day, multiple times a day” while men were “absolutely not.”
“Women are asked to hold accountable their colleagues. The men are not,” she added. “Who is being held accountable for Al Franken’s decision to resign? Women senators, including me. It’s outrageous. It’s absurd.”
Later, Gillibrand told reporters that she did not believe Franken was denied due process.
“Senator Franken was not denied anything,” she said. “It was his decision and his decision alone whether to wait out his Ethics Committee hearing, whether to wait for his next election. The decision I made is whether or not to carry his water and stay silent.”