Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg on Monday broke with Democratic senators in Congress, saying he wouldn’t have moved to push former Sen. Al Franken out as they did before learning more information about allegations of improper behavior on the part of Mr. Franken.
Pressed on the issue at an MSNBC town hall, Mr. Buttigieg said multiple times that it was Mr. Franken’s decision.
“I think it was his decision to make, but I think the way we basically held him to a higher standard than the GOP does their people has been used against us,” said Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. “I think it’s not a bad thing that we hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
Mr. Buttigieg finally said: “I would not have applied that pressure at that time before we knew more.”
Under pressure from his Democratic colleagues, including Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Mr. Franken announced his resignation in December 2017 but denied accusations that he had behaved improperly toward women.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a 2020 rival of Mr. Buttigieg, was the first Democratic senator to say that Mr. Franken needed to go.
Ms. Gillibrand’s campaign issued a statement from the candidate Monday evening pointing out that Mr. Franken had faced eight credible allegations of sexual harassment, including two since he was elected senator and one that came from a congressional staffer.
“That is not too high a standard, regardless of how the Republican Party handles this behavior, and worse,” she said. “Yes, it was Senator Franken’s decision alone to leave the Senate — a path he ultimately chose — but for many senators, including myself and others in this primary field, that was not too high of a bar to raise our voices and make clear we value women.”
Five sitting U.S. senators running for president — Michael Bennet, Cory A. Booker, Kamala D. Harris, Bernard Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — had also said Mr. Franken should resign.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who served alongside Mr. Franken as one of Minnesota’s U.S. senators, issued a statement after his announcement calling it the “right decision” and saying that the two of them had discussed things privately.