Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Monday said she believes everyone is entitled to a “path for redemption,” including men who have been accused of sexual misconduct during the Me Too era.
The 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful was asked a series of questions about sexual misconduct allegations against former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and political journalist Mark Halperin during a live-streamed interview with The Washington Post’s Robert Costa. Gillibrand was the first senator ― by minutes ― to call for Franken’s resignation in December 2017.
“You’ve called the allegations against Franken ‘credible,’” Costa said. “You said you recently spoke to one of the accusers. Would you oppose a political comeback by Senator Franken?”
Gillibrand responded that there’s “always room for redemption of anybody.”
“Anyone who wants a second chance, it’s always there for everyone,” she said. “We’re a country that believes in second chances. We believe in someone who has humility, who comes forward to say they’re sorry and that they have paid consequences and want to reemerge ... There’s always a path for redemption for anybody.”
Though dozens of other senators quickly followed Gillibrand’s call for Franken’s resignation, she has borne the brunt of the backlash from some Democrats who say the Minnesota lawmaker was unfairly pushed out of Congress.
Franken announced his resignation in December 2018 following sexual misconduct allegations from eight women that included groping and forcible kissing. He has flat-out denied one woman’s allegation and told The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer recently that he has no recollection of the accusers. He also told Mayer that he wishes he had appeared before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing about the accusations instead of resigning.
Gillibrand on Monday continued to stand by her calls for Franken’s resignation, saying she would “do it again.” It was his decision to resign when he did, and it’s his decision to seek redemption, she said.
Asked if Halperin, who was accused in October 2017 of sexual harassment by at least a dozen women, has a path to redemption, Gillibrand said it’s “not for me to judge.”
“It’s a choice that any individual can make,” she added. “It starts with humility and recognition that you acknowledge that you’ve done something wrong. People make mistakes all the time.”
“It depends on what you’re accused of and what the facts are and what the allegations are,” she continued. “Obviously if you’ve committed a criminal offense ― assault, rape ― you may well be doing jail time. And that’s why I’m someone who believes in someone who has done their time in a criminal setting deserves to have their right to vote back.”
Halperin has apologized for relationships he had with female co-workers, including subordinates, but has denied allegations that he grabbed a woman’s breast and rubbed his genitals on another.
Soon after the allegations emerged, NBC and MSNBC terminated their contracts with Halperin. But it appears as though the disgraced journalist is seeking to make a comeback. Politico reported Sunday that Halperin had signed a book deal and interviewed multiple Democratic strategists for the project.
“Do you approve or disapprove of Democrats who participated in Mr. Halperin’s book?” Costa asked Monday.
“You know, I don’t know enough about the allegations or why they chose to do that,” Gillibrand replied. “And it’s not my job to be the purveyor of disapproval or approval.”
Watch Gilibrand’s full interview with the Post below: