Six Democratic U.S. Senators–all women–are calling on their colleague, U.S. Senator Al Franken, to resign because of repeated accusations of sexual harassment leveled against him. One of the six, Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, issued the following statement this morning:
Today, I am calling on my colleague Al Franken to step aside. I’ve struggled with this decision because he’s been a good Senator and I consider him a friend. But that cannot excuse his behavior and his mistreatment of women.
TIME Magazine, by naming “The Silence Breakers” as their “Person of the Year,” is recognizing what women have always known: there are men among us who use their positions of power and influence to manipulate, harass, and assault women. What is new here is the women. We are, all of us, speaking out, naming names and demanding that the harassers take responsibility for their behavior.
I am proud of each of the women who has come forward, and heartened by the changing climate that has received their stories with acceptance and compassion.
My hope is that this moment for a cultural change will result in women no longer being viewed as objects or toys, but recognized for their abilities and achievements. As regular human beings. Women have endured this behavior, which for too long has been ignored and tolerated. But no longer.
We can only create a culture where women are respected as equals if we all step forward and be part of the change by holding everyone, especially our leaders, accountable.
Franken has apologized for much of his behavior, but denies the latest accusation, which comes from a woman who says he allegedly tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006. In any case, this move to eject Franken from the Senate comes at a remarkable time in Washington. Just yesterday, long-serving Representative John Conyers, D–Detroit, resigned amidst allegations of sexual harassment from multiple women who worked for him.
But at the same time the Congressional Democrats are slowly cleaning house of accused serial sexual harassers, Congressional Republicans are refusing to budge. In fact, the Republican Party is throwing all of its support behind Senate candidate Roy Moore–a judge who was twice suspended from the bench for misconduct and is under fire now from repeated accusations of sexual misconduct and assault from at least five women, one of whom was just 14 when the alleged assault took place (click here for a detailed look at all the sexual assault allegations against Moore).
This is the way it is with the Republican Party today. Like President Donald Trump, the subject of myriad accusations of sexual harassment and assault from more than a dozen women, Moore denies it all. In fact, Moore’s campaign spokesperson has gone so far as to call Moore’s accusers “criminals”–a grotesque act of pure misogyny.
In other words, while the corporate media and entertainment industries are working fast to expel the worst serial sexual harassers, the Republican Party has decided to make sexual assault a partisan issue. This guarantees that, at least in Washington, violence against women will only get worse.
Photo of Mazie Hirono courtesy U.S. Senate