U.S. Senator Al Franken said he knows that he has let a lot of people down over allegations of sexual misconduct, but vowed to regain the public’s trust saying “this will not happen again.”
Franken, a Democratic senator from Minnesota, returned to work Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday, refusing to give in to calls for him to step down from his position.
Franken told reporters outside his office that he let down “everyone who has counted on me to be a champion for women.” He repeated his apologies for his actions, and said he will be “a lot more sensitive, and a lot more careful” in the future.
“I’ve going to try to learn from my mistakes. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. I want to be someone who adds something to this conversation. I hope I can do that,” he said.
One woman alleges Franken forcibly kissed her on a USO tour in 2006 and took a sexually suggestive photograph while she was sleeping. Three other women allege Franken grabbed their buttocks while posing with them for photographs during separate campaign events.
Asked Monday if he denies the allegations of sexual misconduct, Franken said he remembers the kiss on the USO tour differently. However, he said “I feel you have to respect women’s experiences. I apologized to her and I meant it, and I was grateful she accepted it.” Franken said he doesn’t remember the other allegations and said he takes thousands of photographs with people.
The senator said he will cooperate fully with a Senate ethics investigation into his behavior. “I’ve been trying to take responsibility by apologizing … to the people I’ve let down. I’m going to work to regain their trust,” he said.
He said the allegations against him have been a “shock” and said he is “embarrassed and ashamed.”
On Sunday, the longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Michigan Democrat John Conyers, said he is relinquishing his position as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee while allegations of sexual harassment against him are investigated.
The 88-year-old Conyers last week acknowledged he had reached a $27,000 settlement with a woman who formerly worked on his Washington staff who alleged Conyers fired her after she rebuffed a sexual advance from him. But Conyers continued to deny the allegation. He said settled the case only to avoid a long legal battle.
The House Ethics Committee is investigating whether Conyers used taxpayer money in his office funds to settle the case and whether he engaged in sexual harassment of other women.