MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
A growing group of Democratic senators - mostly women but men too - say their colleague Al Franken of Minnesota needs to go. Calls for his resignation came today on social media and in a news conference led by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
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KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: I think it would be better for the country for him to offer that clear message that he values women, that we value women and that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.
KELLY: These calls for Franken to resign come as Politico and The Atlantic are reporting today new allegations of sexual harassment. Franken's office says the senator will make an announcement about his political future tomorrow. Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono is among those urging him to resign. She has tweeted, quote, "he's been a good senator and I consider him a friend, but that cannot excuse his behavior and his mistreatment of women." And Senator Hirono joins us on the line now from the Capitol. Welcome.
MAZIE HIRONO: Aloha.
KELLY: You said just a couple of weeks ago that calls for Senator Franken to resign were a distraction and that you would support him staying in Congress. What changed for you today?
HIRONO: At that point, I believe there were two women who had come forward, and we did have a process, the Ethics Committee investigation. And he said that - he had admitted that he did that and he was going to go through the Ethics Committee. And I thought that that was a way to proceed. But since then, there have been other women who have come forward. And so much as I consider Al a friend and he's a good senator because I sit on two committees with them, his behavior toward women cannot be excused.
So at this point, you know, a lot of us struggled with it. I certainly did before I came to this decision. It's always very hard when a friend is involved. And that's why I very much commend the women who have come forward, not just in this situation but in other cases of sexual harassment.
KELLY: So for you, this was a case of the allegations just continuing to mount and feeling like there was enough there for you to say we shouldn't wait for the Ethics Committee.
HIRONO: Well, I really - I really thought about what standard we should hold our leaders to. And I came to the conclusion that, yes, we do need to hold our leaders to a high standard of accountability.
KELLY: Is this move by Democrats, including yourself, to ask Senator Franken to resign, is it linked at all to what is unfolding in Alabama? Roy Moore has multiple allegations against him as well and who has an election coming up next week.
HIRONO: When I talk about a culture change, I really think that it is the women who have come forward at this pivotal moment to come forward with their stories and to have their stories heard in a way that does not result in the kind of ignoring of these kinds of behaviors that so many of us have endured for way too long. So we are at a tipping point where with all these women coming forward and talking about their own experiences, which, by the way, each of us has had in our own lives of being harassed, and we should not lose this moment to effect a culture change. I think each of us has a responsibility to be a part of that change.
KELLY: May I follow up on something you just said, that this is something that all of us as women have our own stories to share. I wonder - do you have a story from your period serving in Congress?
HIRONO: Not so much serving in Congress, but I don't know a single woman who has not been the object of unwanted comments, overtures, and I've had that in my life because I've been in politics for over 30 years. But it went before then when I was a child. So all of us have real-life experiences with basically men who have in many ways used their positions of power and authority to harass us and even to assault us.
KELLY: Senator Hirono, thank you.
HIRONO: Thank you. Aloha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.