Donnelly joins growing chorus of voices calling for Franken resignation

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Sen. Al Franken's support among his fellow Democrats is cratering as Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly on Wednesday joined a growing chorus of voices calling for his resignation.

Within minutes of each other, Senators Patty Murray of Washington, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Kamala Harris of California, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire posted messages on Facebook and Twitter saying Franken, of Minnesota, must resign.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez and three male Democratic senators, including Donnelly, joined their call.

The calls came as another woman accused Franken of sexual misconduct in an account to Politico.

“Senator Franken’s conduct and behavior are unacceptable and he should resign," Donnelly said in a written statement. "“I believe there is more work to be done to protect victims of sexual harassment and to reform the system of filing and settling harassment claims in Congress. I support reforms to protect victims, increase transparency and ensure that taxpayers do not have to pay for settlements made by members of Congress.”

The demands came in rapid succession after Franken on Wednesday vehemently denied a new sexual misconduct accusation that came from a former Democratic congressional aide that he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006.

"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.The Minnesota Democrat said in a statement that the allegation, reported by Politico, was "categorically not true."

The woman, who was not identified by name, said Franken pursued her after her boss had left and she was collecting her belongings. She said she ducked to avoid his lips, and that Franken told her: "It's my right as an entertainer."

Franken, in his statement, said the idea he would claim such conduct as a right as an entertainer was "preposterous."

But the tide quickly turned against Franken Wednesday morning. Fellow Democrats had previously been cautious and respected Franken's right to cooperate with an ethics probe. But the steady stream of allegations has female Democrats fed up.

"I'm shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken's behavior," Murray said. "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."

A spokesman for Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., had no immediate comment.

Franken already faced a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into previous claims by several other women that he groped them or sought to forcibly kiss them.

"This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous," Franken said. "I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation."

The allegations against Franken began in mid-November when Los Angeles radio anchor Leeann Tweeden accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour.

Several other allegations have followed, including a woman who says that Franken put his hand on her buttocks during a picture pose at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Two women, who asked to remain anonymous, have told the Huffington Post that Franken squeezed their buttocks at political events during his first campaign for the Senate in 2008. A fourth woman, an Army veteran, alleged Franken cupped her breast during a photo op on a USO tour in 2003.

Franken has apologized for his behavior but he has disputed some of the allegations. The 66-year-old is a leader of his party’s liberal wing who had been seen as a potential 2020 presidential candidate.

The coordinated series of messages from the female lawmakers could be fatal to any chances Franken could ride out the allegations with apologies and an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. Democratic leaders have been wrestling with how to calibrate their response to harassment allegations against their members, but in recent weeks there’s been a rising sentiment for zero tolerance.

Democrats have one eye on Alabama, where they hope to defeat Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, 70, who has strongly denied claims by multiple women that he sexually assaulted or sought to date them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s.   The female senators’ messages came hours after Time magazine named as its Person of the Year the "Silence Breakers" — women who have come forward to tell stories of being sexually harassed.

On Tuesday, Democratic Representative John Conyers of Michigan, the longest serving House member and a civil rights leader, resigned amid allegations that he sexually harassed members of his staff.

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