Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was reportedly the first Democrat colleague in the Senate to urge Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to remain in office, has joined at least four others. Manchin said in an interview with POLITICO, “What they did to Al was atrocious, the Democrats." Manchin added, "What they did to Al, the Democrats, was the most hypocritical thing I've seen done to a human being." Because Franken's announcement earlier this month did not set a firm deadline for his departure in the wake of charges from eight women of sexual harassment, there have been hopes among Democrats that he might stay long enough to go through an Ethic Committee investigation of the charges.
However, Franken's familiars contend that the outspoken progressive Democrat is looking to leave the Senate, having already discussed the matter with his family members. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has already named the state's lieutenant governor, Tina Smith, as Franken's successor.
Manchin was among the few Democrats who did not call for Franken’s resignation. All of the women in the Senate's Democrat caucus called for Franken's ouster. Manchin did, however, say that it would be appropriate for Franken to step down if the allegations are proved true. Speaking of fellow Democrats' calls on Franken to resign, who gathered on the Senate floor just a day later to watch his announcement, Manchin said, “The most hypocritical thing I’ve ever seen done to a human being — and then have enough guts to sit on the floor, watch him give his speech and go over and hug him? That’s hypocrisy at the highest level I’ve ever seen in my life. Made me sick.” Manchin said, "Here’s a man, that all he said [was], ‘Take me through the Ethics Committee. I will live by whatever decision and I will walk away thinking about this opportunity I’ve had while I was here. But you find out if I’m a predator.’”
Manchin said he hopes Franken reverses his decision, saying of the senators who called for the ouster, “I hope they have enough guts ... and enough conscience and enough heart to say, ‘Al, we made a mistake asking prematurely for you to leave.’”
According to POLITICO, at least two Democrats in the Senate have privately expressed regrets for having called on Franken to resign. One such senator asked not to be named out of fear for fellow Democrats' reaction.
Among the senators who remain comfortable over Franken's departure is Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). She was the leader in calling for Franken's resignation once the story POLITICO published of a former Democratic congressional aide who said the Franken attempted to forcibly kiss her after the taping of a radio show in 2006. According to Gillibrand, said that because of the importance of zero tolerance for sexual harassment, she feared that the Ethics Committee process was being used as a shield. According to the POLITICO report, Gillibrand observed, "He was entitled to a process, but he was not entitled to my silence."
Sen. Manchin said he is hopeful that Franken's colleagues will convince him to through the ethics process. “That’s the human and decent thing to do. If they have any decency in them, they’d do that,” Manchin said in the podcast interview. “Every one of them that signed for him to go out —including Chuck Schumer — should do that.”