WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer late Wednesday joined a growing chorus of Democrats calling on Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota to resign amid a growing list of allegations about his conduct around women.
"Senator Franken should resign," Schumer said in a statement. “I consider Senator 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 calling for Franken to leave the Senate, Schumer joined a groundswell of opposition to the comedian-turned-lawmaker that started in the morning, when a half a dozen Democratic women — including Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York — issued simultaneous statements asking Franken to step down.
"While Sen. Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve," Gillibrand said in a Facebook post.
"I have been shocked and disappointed to learn over the last few weeks that a colleague I am fond of personally has engaged in behavior towards women that is unacceptable," Gillibrand added.
According to a source familiar with the situation, Schumer called Franken immediately after news broke regarding Gillibrand and the other senators who had called on the Minnesota lawmaker to resign.
Schumer told Franken he needed to step down. Schumer repeated that message in later phone calls and at a meeting at Schumer's apartment with Franken and his wife, that source said.
The announcement from Gillibrand, a Senate leader on confronting sexual harassment in the military and on college campuses, dramatically ratchet up the pressure on Franken, a Democrat who faces accusations of unwanted advances or improper touching from six different women.
Hours after Gillibrand and her five colleagues issued their simultaneous call for Franken's departure, seven other Democratic senators said they, too, think he should leave the Senate.
Franken's office said he would make an announcement about his future on Thursday, but offered no other details as to what that announcement might be.
In a long Facebook post headlined "Senator Franken Should Step Aside," Gillibrand said she considers Franken to be a friend and said she has enjoyed working with him.
"But this moment of reckoning about our friends and colleagues who have been accused of sexual misconduct is necessary, and it is painful," Gillibrand said. "We must not lose sight that this watershed moment is bigger than any one industry, any one party, or any one person."
The rash of recent revelations of sexual misconduct among men in a host of professions makes for an important moment for America, Gillibrand said.
"To achieve lasting change, we will need to fight this everywhere on behalf of everyone by insisting on accountability and working to bring more women into leadership in each industry to fundamentally shift the culture," she said.
And that means political leaders have to call out those who commit sexual harassment and sexual assault, regardless of party, she said.
"We have to rise to the occasion, and not shrink away from it, even when it’s hard; especially when it’s hard," she said. "That is what this larger moment is about. So, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on Senator Franken’s behavior. Enough is enough."
"The women who have come forward are brave and I believe them," Gillibrand added. "While it’s true that his behavior is not the same as the criminal conduct alleged against Roy Moore, or Harvey Weinstein, or President Trump, it is still unquestionably wrong, and should not be tolerated by those of us who are privileged to work in public service."
Saying she was working to fix the broken system of dealing with sexual harassment in Congress, Gillibrand stressed that much needs to be done to ensure that the current wave of allegations encourages more women to come forward and for society to take such complaints seriously.
"In the wake of the election of President Trump, in just the last few months, our society is changing, and I encourage women and men to keep speaking up to continue this progress," she wrote. "At this moment, we need to speak hard truths or lose our chance to make lasting change."
Gillibrand later elaborated on her views at a news conference, saying Franken should resign because the Senate Ethics Committee isn't equipped to quickly deliver the kind of accountability the American people deserve.
“I think it would be better for the country for him to offer that clear message that he values women, that we value women and that this kind of behavior is not acceptable,” she told reporters.
Just as Gillibrand released her statement on Franken, five other Democratic senators — Patty Murray of Washington State, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Kamala Harris of California, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii — did the same.
Those senators include several of the Senate's most prominent Democrats. Both Gillibrand and Harris are considered possible presidential candidates in 2020. Murray is assistant minority leader and the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate. And McCaskill is a highly regarded centrist who is especially close to Schumer, the Democratic leader.
Shortly after the six women senators issued their simultaneous announcement about Franken, several other Democratic senators also called on Franken to resign.
Most notably, Minority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois — the Senate's second-ranking Democrat — said Franken should step down.
“Senator Franken’s conduct was wrong. He has admitted to it. And he should resign from the Senate,” Durbin told reporters.
Other Democratic senators calling on Franken to resign included Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Maria Cantwell of Washington State, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and Ron Wyden of Oregon.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Thomas E. Perez, a Snyder native, also called on Franken to resign.
"Sen. Al Franken should step down," Perez tweeted. "Everyone must share the responsibility of building a culture of trust and respect for women in every industry and workplace, and that includes our party."
In addition, Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate in an Alabama special Senate election against Republican Roy Moore, called on Franken to quit. Moore is accused of making improper advances on teenage girls when he was in his 30s.
If Franken resigns, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, would appoint a replacement who would serve until a November 2018 special election to fill the last two year's of Franken's current term.
A longtime writer and star on "Saturday Night Live" who later hosted a progressive radio show, Franken first won election to the Senate in 2008.
Los Angeles radio anchor Leeann Tweeden last month accused Franken of forcing a kiss on her during a 2006 USO tour. That prompted several other women to come forward with allegations against the Minnesota senator.
Most recently, a woman who asked to remain anonymous told Politico that Franken tried to kiss her in 2006, saying: "It's my right as an entertainer." Franken — who earlier apologized to Tweeden — denied the most recent allegation.