Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) stood by her past calls for then-Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations after fellow 2020 presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg said Monday that he wouldn’t have applied the same pressure.
“Eight credible allegations of sexual harassment, two since he was elected Senator, and one from a congressional staffer,” Gillibrand said in a statement shared on Twitter by a campaign staffer. “That is not too high a standard, regardless of how the Republican party handles this behavior, and worse.”
“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,” her statement continued.
Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, initially danced around the question when asked Monday during a town hall with MSNBC whether Democrats had been right in late 2017 when they pushed Franken to step down.
“I think it was his decision to make,” Buttigieg said. “But I think the way that we basically held him to a higher standard than the GOP does their people has been used against us.”
Pressed several times to answer the question directly, Buttigieg finally stated that he wouldn’t have taken the same approach that Democratic lawmakers did during the 2017 scandal.
“Well, I think it’s not a bad thing that we hold ourselves to a higher standard,” he said. “I would not have applied that pressure at that time before we knew more.”
In December 2017, Gillibrand was the first Democratic senator ― only by minutes ― to publicly call on Franken to step down after multiple women had accused him of inappropriate touching. He announced his resignation the following day and officially stepped down in January 2018.
Though Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reportedly told Franken in private that he needed to go before the wave of resignation calls from Gillibrand and other Democratic senators, Gillibrand has received the brunt of the blame for what happened, as HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel has reported.
Franken’s supporters argue that the Senate should have investigated the allegations before forcing him out. Criticism of her stance on Franken has been a thorn in Gillibrand’s side as she runs for the White House in 2020, with some progressive donors pledging not to support her presidential bid because of it.
“If standing up for women who have been wronged makes George Soros mad, that’s on him,” Gillibrand said in a statement to HuffPost last year. “But I won’t hesitate to always do what I think is right.”
Buttigieg’s campaign did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.