(CN) – U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota said Thursday he is resigning amid a flurry of sexual-misconduct accusations from at least six women and demands from his fellow Democrats to step aside.
"Today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate," Franken said in a speech on the Senate floor just before noon.
Franken, who was first elected to the Senate in 2008 and re-elected in 2014, said his decision was not about him, but about the people of Minnesota. He said he felt like he could weather the allegations but could not do his job effectively while the claims were being investigated.
"I know who I really am," Franken said Thursday. "I know in my heart nothing I have done as a senator, nothing, has brought dishonor on this institution. And I am confident that the ethics committee would agree."
"I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office," he added.
Franken said that even on the "worst day of my political life, it has all been worth it."
The resignation announcement comes after fresh accusations Wednesday against the embattled lawmaker, including one woman who said he tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006 after a radio show taping and another who claims he squeezed “a handful of flesh” on her waist while posing for a photo with her in 2009.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was the first colleague to call for Franken’s resignation on Wednesday.
“Enough is enough," Gillibrand wrote in a Facebook post. "We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable, and we, as elected leaders, should absolutely be held to a higher standard."
Other Democrats soon followed. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state said she was “shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken's behavior.”
“It's clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time. It's time for him to step aside,” Murray said.
Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said later on Wednesday, “I consider Sen. Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has a higher obligation to his constituents and the Senate, and he should step down immediately.”
In all, 32 Democrats had called for Franken's resignation.
The senator was already facing an ethics investigation into previous claims that he tried to grope or forcibly kiss several other women.
The first to come forward was Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden, who said last month that Franken tried to forcibly kiss her during a USO tour in Afghanistan a decade ago.
Franken sat on the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Judiciary Committee, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the Committee on Indian Affairs.
Before his political career, Franken, who grew up in Minnesota, worked 37 years as a comedy writer. He was one of the original writers and performers on "Saturday Night Live" and later became an author and radio talk show host.
Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota was his mentor. After Wellstone's death in 2002, Franken talked about running for his seat and moved back to Minnesota in 2005. He announced his Senate candidacy in 2007.
Franken quoted Wellstone near the end of his resignation speech Thursday: "The future belongs to those who are passionate and work hard."
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