Arizona Republican Representative Trent Franks has announced his resignation after the House Ethics Committee revealed it was opening an investigation into potential sexual harassment.
In a statement released late Thursday, Franks admitted he made staffers “uncomfortable” and that he discussed fertility issues and surrogacy with two female staffers, but denied having ever “physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”
Franks and his wife have 3-year-old twins who were conceived through surrogacy. He said in his statement that they were interested in having another child.
“Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018,” Franks said.
Franks’ announcement came hours after U.S. Senator Al Franken announced he will resign amid a growing firestorm stemming from sexual misconduct allegations — the second Democratic lawmaker to announce a departure this week under a cloud of moral impropriety.
"Today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate," said Franken, who has represented Minnesota since 2009, speaking Thursday on the Senate floor.
Dozens of Democratic senators had called on Franken to quit after a news media report quoted a former congressional aide as saying Franken forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006.
In recent weeks, several other women accused Franken of groping them, including Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden who posted a picture om Twitter of a smiling Franken posing with his hands over her breasts while she slept on a flight during a 2006 tour to entertain U.S. troops in the Middle East.
Franken often struck a defiant tone during his floor speech.
"Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently. I have used my power to be a champion of women," Franken said, adding, "I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice. I will continue to stand up for the things I believe in as a citizen and as an activist."
The senator also took aim at President Donald Trump and Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. Moore has been accused of making sexual advances toward teenage girls and young adult women.
"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, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party," Franken said.
The senator's colleagues praised his decision to resign.
"This is the right decision," Senator Amy Klobuchar, a fellow Minnesota Democrat, said in a statement. "Nothing is easy or pleasant about this, but we all must recognize that our workplace cultures — and the way we treat each other as human beings — must change."
"Senator Franken made the right decision today, but the Senate has so much more work to do … to foster safe work environments and ensure harassers are held accountable," Democrat Tim Kaine of Virginia wrote on Twitter. "Let's get to work."
Not everyone was satisfied, however. One of Franken’s accusers faulted the senator for a lack of contrition.
“Justice to me would be him owning up to what he did,” said U.S. Army veteran Stephanie Kemplin, who accused Franken of groping her in 2003, speaking on MSNBC.
On Tuesday, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, Michigan Democrat John Conyers, quit in the face of sexual misconduct allegations against him. House leaders of both parties had called for his resignation after several women who worked for Conyers accused him of unwanted sexual advances spanning several years.
Allegations of sexual misconduct have roiled the United States for weeks, with dozens of powerful men in the world of politics, business, entertainment and the media losing their jobs after women came forward with graphic allegations of abuse.