Franken Sends Accuser a Handwritten Apology

Meanwhile, calls mount for him to resign
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2017 8:39 AM CST
Updated Nov 17, 2017 12:24 PM CST
Here's What Al Franken Should Do
Sen. Al Franken in a file photo.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

If Al Franken wanted advice on what his next steps should be in his sexual harassment scandal, there's no shortage of it. Some in his own party say he should immediately step down or risk harming the anti-harassment movement, though one self-identified feminist floats a different option: Remain in the Senate as a supporter of women's rights, but forego any thought of a re-election run. Meanwhile, accuser Leeann Tweeden shared a handwritten note of apology from Franken, in which he again says he remembers a rehearsal differently (she has accused him of a forcible kiss) but has "no excuse" for the now-infamous groping photo, per ABC News. He adds that he is "ashamed" he ruined her USO experience. "I am so sorry." Details and developments:

  • He must go: In a New York Times op-ed, Michelle Goldberg writes that until this week, she wanted Franken to run for president. Now she thinks he should immediately resign. Her initial instinct was that he should stick it out through an ethics investigation. "But if that happens, the current movement toward unprecedented accountability for sexual harassers will probably start to peter out." If he stays, that damning photo will be used again and again whenever new allegations are raised against others. "The question isn't about what's fair to Franken, but what's fair to the rest of us."
  • He should stay: Kate Harding is a feminist who has written a book on rape culture, and she writes in the Washington Post that Franken should stay in the Senate. His resignation might be temporarily satisfying to supporters of women's rights, but she writes that, for the greater good, it makes little sense to remove a lawmaker who consistently supports women's issues. She'd like him to remain, announce that he won't run for re-election, go on a listening tour of women's issues, then back a progressive woman to replace him. "One more head on a pike (will) not make American women safer or better off."

  • Survival: Chris Cillizza at CNN writes that it's iffy whether Franken can survive politically even now. One thing that does seem clear: If more women come forward after Tweeden, he's done.
  • 'Railroaded': Franken is being defended from an unusual source. At Mediaiate, John Ziegler writes that he "loathes" Franken and disagrees with him on almost every issue. But in this case, Franken is being "railroaded," writes Ziegler. He points out the context of the photo, taken when Franken was a comic, not a senator, and writes that there's too much uncertainty over the allegations of the forced kiss in rehearsal. "My fellow conservatives would be screaming bloody murder if the target was a Republican they liked, rather than a Democrat they hate."
  • Local paper: The editorial board at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune castigates Franken's behavior and says the meant-as-a-joke explanation doesn't cut it. The editorial stops short of calling for his resignation, but suggests that may change. "The scandal simultaneously provides cover for (others who stand accused) and damages his ability to be an effective moral voice for Minnesotans—perhaps too much for him to continue in the Senate."

  • 'Enormously sad': Joan Walsh at the Nation is "enormously sad" but credits Franken with an "excellent apology," referring to his second, longer statement. "We shouldn't disown him just because Republicans want a scapegoat," she writes. "We will have to, though, if these stories multiply, as they have with Trump and (Roy) Moore. My fingers are crossed that they will not."
  • Roger Stone: The Trump ally seemed to know of the allegations in advance, notes CBS News. Hours before the story broke, Stone said that it was Franken's "time in the barrel" and that he was joining "the long list of Democrats accused of grabby behavior," per a tweet. (Trump himself also criticized Franken.)
  • That photo: Laura Miller at Slate isn't cutting Franken slack because of the comic context of the groping photo. "All of Franken’s entertainment career was spent catering to the kind of audience who gets an extra thrill out of the idea that someone else (so often a woman!) would be outraged by whatever the comic has just said or done," she writes. The photo depicts "a man desperate for the laughter and camaraderie of such an audience, and that desperation is one of the ugliest things about it." He should have known better than to go for that laugh.
(Read more Al Franken stories.)

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