After announcing her presidential campaign earlier in the week, junior senator from New York Kirsten Gillibrand wasted no time getting to Iowa. There, Sen. Gillibrand defended her statement against former Sen. Al Franken, who resigned after multiple allegations of groping in December 2017, to an audience in Sioux City, Iowa, on Friday.
Gillibrand was the first of Franken's fellow senators to call for his resignation after multiple allegations were corroborated. "Sen. Franken had eight credible allegations against him for harassment and groping. They were corroborated in real time, and they were deemed credible by those that investigated them. And for me, that eighth allegation, when it came out — and it was it was known that he was a congressional staffer, before he was a senator — I couldn't remain silent anymore," Gillibrand said, according to The Washington Post's David Weigel.
Gillibrand said her silence would have meant her support. "Because what my silence meant was defending him, and carrying his water, which I was unwilling to do. It was: Enough is enough," Gillibrand said.
The junior senator said she felt compelled to speak out because of her sons. "I'm also a mom of boys, and the conversation I was having at the time, with Theo, who is 15, was, 'Mom why are you being so mean to Al Franken?'" Gillibrand said. "And I had to be very clear with him, as a mother: It's not okay to grope a woman anywhere on her body without her consent. It's not okay to forcibly kiss a woman without her consent."
Though Gillibrand was the first to call for the resignation of the former Minnesota senator, she was ultimately joined by more than two dozen senators calling for Franken's resignation, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to Politico.
Franken denied some of the allegations, including during a speech on the Senate floor in early December 2017, according to The New York Times. "I was shocked. I was upset. But in responding to their claims I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously. I think that was the right thing to do," Franken said in his speech, according to The Washington Post. "Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently."
Gillibrand said it was a "painful" time for herself and the Democratic Party. "You have to stand up for what's right, especially when it's hard. And if you create a pass because you love someone, or you like someone, or admire someone, or they're part of your team, it's not OK, it's just not," she told the crowd in Iowa, according to CNN. "I feel strongly about it, and it's painful. It's painful for me. It's painful for a lot of us."
But Gillibrand said she planned to use these learning moments for Democrats to defeat Donald Trump in 2020. "I want to run for president because I feel like we are in this moment where, as you said, there is a darkness," she said, according to CNN. "President Trump has created so much hate, so much division. I feel I have to use everything I can to defeat what he created."