As women speak up, Franken avoids questions

What we have in the case of Minnesota Sen. Al Franken now is a test of whether a politician can survive by seeking cover and issuing statements.

The Minnesota senator has not done any interviews nor held a press conference to address last week’s allegations of sexual misconduct against him. And now there’s another.

It’s not clear who, if anyone else, is writing Franken’s statements to the media, but both of his initial statements have been clumsy at best and have raised more questions than answers.

In his initial response to Leeann Tweeden’s allegation that he forcibly kissed her during a USO tour, Franken said he didn’t remember things the way Tweeden did.

How did he remember it? Good question. He didn’t say.

Today’s statement in the wake of a CNN report that he grabbed the behind of a woman who wanted a picture also leaves unanswered questions on both sides.

“It wasn’t around my waist. It wasn’t around my hip or side,” Lindsay Metz told CNN about the picture-taking at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. “It was definitely on my butt,” she claimed. “I was like, oh my God, what’s happening.”

Over to you, senator.

“I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don’t remember taking this picture,” Franken said in a statement. “I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected.”

Franken’s strategy not to meet the media — he’s also staying in Washington over Thanksgiving — invites the parsing of his statement. If you’ve never grabbed the behind of a woman taking a picture with you, wouldn’t a flat-out denial be more appropriate than “I don’t remember”?

Maybe. Maybe not. The questions could be answered by facing them directly, unless doing so can only make things worse.

He’s chosen a different route so far, content to wait until a Senate Ethics Committee hearing on him is held. Who knows when that will be? The committee is about to tee up New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez first.

In the meantime, a political career risks dying of a thousand paper cuts.

  • Rob

    I had thought Al was cool and brave; it’s patently clear now that he is neither.

  • crystals

    Bye, Al.

  • Bob Brereton

    I called in this link to KNOW 30 minutes ago. That gave Kerri Miller’s people plenty of time to look into the Tweeden tape of her acting very inappropriately on the USO Tour.
    This is very revealing.

    • We don’t victim shame here, Bob.

    • URNSO2

      Did you mention that Tweeden was a playboy model? Did you bring up the skimpy clothes she’s been photographed in? Believe it or not, even a porn star can be raped. I’m not claiming that Al committed a crime, just that this type of victim blaming is a major reason why these type of incidents keep occurring. It will be interesting to see what dirt they dig up on the mom of 3 that Al allegedly groped at the MN fair. Maybe she posed for some inappropriate pictures in college too.

      • AL287

        Or her political affiliation.

        Why do I feel like a powerful Texas Republican put her up to this?

        • URNSO2

          If the story is true, does it matter?

          Likewise for Moore. WaPo seems to have driven the story, not the victims.

          • KariBemidji

            Actually, the first reported-on victims approached the WaPo reporter. And then more victims came forward. That’s how sexually harassment/assault/creepiness works. When it happens to you, these thoughts can go through your head: It’s just me, he made a mistake, I must’ve done something wrong. And when the reports come out: I’m not alone. Others share my story. I must share my story.

          • URNSO2

            I totally agree and didn’t mean to suggest that Moore isn’t guilty. I was just noting, that if a reporter breaks the story it doesn’t mean the accusation has less merit.

        • Gary F

          Are there two standards?

          • URNSO2

            For many yes. Which is sad because this type of response perpetuates this behavior in the political party these people are affiliated with. It’s like they only want the opposing party to behave better.

          • Maybe if you think there is you can provide some concrete examples instead of innuendo.

        • Because you were inclined to, I’d guess.

          • AL287

            Just like Republicans thought a Democrat put Roy Moore’s accusers up to it.

            Where exactly does that leave us?

            All these women coming forward. What were they thinking? “Oh! I think I’ll jump on the #MeToo bandwagon. Maybe I’ll get something out of it for me.”

            I doubt it. They genuinely wanted their experiences to be out in the open and not something to hide like they did something verboten.

          • //All these women coming forward. What were they thinking?

            You know the thing about this ongoing question is that women have been answering it for several generations now.

          • jon

            Would you put it past the GOP to do something like that?
            We saw them claim “paid protestors” and then we saw the GOP paying for protesters… At some point the claims have a bit of a reflection on those making them, and what they’d do in the situation… Not saying I think it is what happened, nor do I think the democrats had these women come forward for Moore, but at some point we’ll have to accept that people/parties are capable of it…

            This is the problem with having one political party as the morally superior to the other (doesn’t really matter which one you see as morally superior in this case), we’ll wave our hands and say that our party would never do X, and ignore the evidence, but assume the other party would do X, and find evidence where none exists…

            Odds are both parties are playing a bit of politics, but I also suspect that neither party wants to establish a precedent that any level of sexual harassment in someone’s history as a reason to be expelled from the senate… I think both parties would be happy to have this all swept under the rug, maybe just visible enough to warn their younger candidates away from such actions, but not so much as to have their senior members kicked out of office because of it…

            They want a change that is generational, because that maintains the status quo for now, and eliminates the threat in the future… and in a sense they had one… PC culture took off in the 90’s it’s been almost 2 decades and the part where they forgot to replace the creepy old men in congress is really something they should look into …

  • manderso

    He should just quit, then the same to his Vastness, where did that go?

  • Laurie K.

    Although I am disturbed by the allegations and am disappointed in Al Franken, I do feel that anyone facing allegations is in somewhat of a difficult position. If the accused say that the alleged victims are lying, then they are viewed as not owning their behavior and/or not being respectful of victims who come forward. It seems as though the statements coming from Franken (or his office) is an attempt to walk a fine line between being respectful of victims who come forward while also not admitting to the specific behavior being alleged. I personally, would rather the accused just either admit or deny the alleged behavior.

    • URNSO2

      What accusers aren’t admitting or denying what happened? They tell their stories and it’s not up to them to determine what happens to their alleged aggressors. As the article notes, its not a crime to grab someones butt in MN.

      • Laurie K.

        Edited my comment, meant the accused, not the accuser.

        • URNSO2

          That makes more sense.

          • Laurie K.

            Where do you find in the article that it says it is not a crime to grab another person’s butt? I can assure you, it most certainly is a crime, at the very least disorderly conduct.

          • URNSO2

            It’s actually in the linked CNN article that broke to story. Perhaps I overs stated that it isn’t a crime. As you can read below CNN notes “not considered sexual misconduct.”

            “Minnesota statutes state that “intentional touching of the clothing
            covering the immediate area of the buttocks” is not considered criminal
            sexual conduct.”

    • Kelly Schoenhofen

      Thanks for this – I appreciate Franken’s attempt to thread the needle here. I am disappointed by Bob Collin’s rudimentary op-ed piece here, which in effect says an accused has to either admit what they did or call the accuser a liar. If this binary either/or is what people take away from the entire #metoo movement I think we are missing a large swath of the message.

  • AL287

    This whole thing reminds me of the McCarthy hearings and the Red Scare of the 1950’s.

    My biggest concern is this will backfire much like the backlash against Black Lives Matter and Colin Kaepernick.

    Have my fellow women not learned anything from the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal? Whatever happened to standing up for yourself and complaining about the offense immediately with the perpetrator? It would certainly have given both these women personal vindication. Why bring it up a decade later?

    I believe Al Franken when he says he does not remember the photograph incident from nearly 8 years ago.

    Neither Leeann Tweeden or Lindsey Metz immediately told Al Franken that his behavior was rude or crossed a line. They told people, men, who failed to confront the man.

    What about that? Could it be that they had moments of poor personal judgment in their immediate past and didn’t want their skeletons coming out of the closet?

    I wonder.

    • URNSO2

      I think that people may be disturbed when this happens but not enough to call the police. Perhaps you can relate if you are a woman and someone has grabbed your butt. It may feel wrong, you may feel violated, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to file a police report. I don’t think having your husband or father chasing down a sitting Senator to confront him at a state fair is a great option either.

      However, once you see that this may be a pattern you might feel inclined to speak up. Honestly, what do you think reporting this 8 years ago would have resulted in? It’s also worth noting that she did post about it on FaceBook right after it happened claiming “Dude — Al Franken TOTALLY molested me! Creeper!” (The exchange is visible to Menz’s Facebook friends.)

      • AL287

        Note the overreach on “molested.”

        Since I don’t subscribe to Facebook which has become a way of crucifying people and things you don’t like but don’t have the courage to say in person, I don’t consider a pinch on the butt the level that “molested” implies.

        The confrontation should have occurred when the incident happened, not 8 years later. Her father and her husband don’t have any guts either.

        Posting on Facebook doesn’t confront the behavior. It’s just a very ineffectual way of getting your outrage off your chest.

        • URNSO2

          A bit of hyperbole maybe but it does fit definition 2 below. I’m guessing he wasn’t grabbing ugly fat old guys butts.

          Definition of molest

          transitive verb
          1:to annoy, disturb, or persecute especially with hostile intent or injurious effect

          The zookeeper warned the visitors not to molest the animals.

          2:to make annoying sexual advances to; especially:to force physical and usually sexual contact on

          He was sent to prison for molesting children.

    • crystals

      I am struggling with your comment, both for the pretty harsh judgment of the women involved and for what you think should happen when harassment or assault occurs. It’s interesting to me that your comment is all about what the women did wrong in reacting to “the offense,” and not about the men who actually committed it.

      At this moment in time, I’m less inclined to cast judgment on specific instances and whether women did the right thing in responding to it and way more inclined to figure out what is so broken in our society and culture that this is where we are, and what we need to do to fix it (for the sake of both girls AND our boys).

      • URNSO2

        I totally agree. Victims have zero responsibility to do anything. If they step up and tell their story that is fine but we should not require them to go public every time they feel violated. I would guess it takes time just to process when something like this happens.

      • AL287

        You can’t “fix’ something that has been going on for millennia, that is how ingrained it is in society all over the world.

        If you do confront the perpetrator, you’re a bitch. If you don’t say anything you risk enabling the behavior.

        We are certainly not going to “fix it” in this forum.

        One of the ways to fix it is to confront it immediately when it occurs which sends a powerful message—Keep your grimy mitts off me!

        My ex-husband was approached by a homosexual in the men’s bathroom in the Memphis airport while on a business trip. He immediately grabbed the man by the collar and threw him against the hallway on his way out the door.

        It got the message across and I am sure the perpetrator didn’t try it again anytime soon.

        • crystals

          There’s more in this response than I can even begin to think about unpacking, but suffice it to say I feel very differently. Have a nice day.

          • AL287

            You have a right to your opinion just as I have a right to mine.

            This just how I feel about the whole thing.

            My best friend’s brother touched me inappropriately at 13 when I was spending the night at her house. I pretended to be asleep so he stopped.

            The times were different then (I’m 60 now) and she knows nothing about it and I am not about to tell her and destroy her relationship with her brother or a strong and valuable friendship that has lasted 55 years and counting.

            Enough said.

          • // The times were different then

            No. They weren’t (I’m 63). That wasn’t OK then. It isn’t OK now. And women are mostly still afraid to say anything.

            Women — victims — have lost careers by saying something. Then. Now.

          • Yes, it was not OK then and is not OK now, but people did more readily cover up or simply ignore this kind of abuse years ago. That was very, very not OK, but it happened.

            Back then, some clergy were serial abusers and their superiors did their best to hush it up and even parents of victims were often inclined to believe the abuser over their own kids. What has changed in recent years is that we (as a society) are gaining more understanding of the scope of the problem, and are reacting with what we hope are effective societal changes.

            The Church may have been the first high profile change area, but business, entertainment, and politics are coming around. In business, most HR departments will have policies and training. Clearly the policies and responses are not as advanced or effective in some sectors of society as in others.

            What #MeToo is doing is opening the floodgates, since the pool of potential victims is enormous and the internet and social media act as powerful catalysts to spread the information. This truly is a different time, not because abuse was OK before, but because the means to communicate it widely and receive affirmation and support instead of suffering alone are now available.

          • Good Yvonne Abraham column in the Boston Globe today on this.

          • AL287

            I never once said it was okay. You’re interpreting my comment that way. I’m way past caring about the incident. I only mentioned it to show how long the power struggle for women has been going on.

            Every generation since Moses has been dealing with this issue and I am hoping at long last it is getting proper attention that has been far far too long in coming.

            This holier-than-thou attitude on your part Bob is almost as annoying as the hypocrisy on both sides.

            Men have been put on notice and I hope the #MeToo movement scares the hell out of them as it has you.

          • If by holier than thou you mean my insistence that people — men mostly — not create a hostile environment for women and not shame victims, guilty.

            If that annoys people, I’m pretty OK with that.

          • Jack

            I wish I count up-vote that a million times. Thanks for reminding people that victims often end up losing their careers.

        • Kassie

          “My ex-husband was approached by a homosexual in the men’s bathroom in the Memphis airport while on a business trip. He immediately grabbed the man by the collar and threw him against the hallway on his way out the door.”

          A “sorry, not interested” probably would have been sufficient. What your ex did was assault, also not ok.

  • jon

    So both parties are calling for an investigation… neither party particularly wants an investigation, because both parties know that if a censure or expulsion from the senate happens because of sexual harassment, there will be a rush of journalists investigating every sitting senator for such allegations… and odds are they’ll find a number of them.

    Odds of Franken getting a serious investigation, are low, odds of expulsion are extremely low, given those things odds of resignation are low.

    A run in 2020 for the MN senate seat are dropping, but not as fast as the odds of a 2020 presidential run…

    Unless there are some far more dramatic revelations brought up I’m thinking that 2020 is the year Franken leaves politics, not much sooner.

  • MrE85

    “..now is a test of whether a politician can survive by seeking cover and issuing statements.”

    It’s worked before.

    • When?

      • MrE85

        I had Wilbur Mills in mind, for one. The voters re-elected him after his affair with a stripper became public, but he ended up resigning after another bad bout with the bottle. In the case of Franken, I agree that if the trickle of accusations becomes a flood, he will likely be forced out.

  • Christin Crabtree

    One can appreciate Al Franken’s political achievements, love many of the ways he has contributed positively to society AND simultaneously hold him accountable for his actions. We MUST. Why on earth would I submit to the idea that his action’s, which are truly diminishing to women’s humanity, weren’t “that bad?” What does that say about my self respect? My respect for others?
    Accountability is true justice. It is a recognition that while a person may have been wonderful to me, they may have gravely harmed someone else. I can believe, stand with, and support the survivor even if I love the person who harmed them. We can hold both Truths in our hand at once. It will be uncomfortable, but remember that the survivors of abuse/harassment hold these conflicting truths silently all the time. Now the rest of the world has a seat at this very complex table. It is the hard work, the heavy lifting, to courageously seek justice, feel the shame, the grief, the confusion, the compassion for victims and disappointment in perpetrators all at once. Abusers and harassers aren’t monsters, they are our friends, lovers, fathers, and brothers. Our heros. Our favorite artists. It is not simple.
    Let us also remember that the issue is about the removal of choice, agency, and autonomy as a human being. Franken took away Leeann Tweeden’s choice. When people point out that she posed nude as some kind of justification for Franken’s poor behavior, it is submitting to the patriarchal notion that women do not have autonomy over our own bodies.

  • Gary F

    Now someone says Al’s hands were busy during a State Fair photo.

  • Chris

    I wouldn’t put it past Mitch McConnell to not swear in a new senator from Minnesota until after a vote on the tax bill, giving the GOP in effect an extra vote. That would be reason enough for Al to hang on, at least until we see what happens with Roy Moore.

    • jon

      People keep saying this in comments on the internet… but I’m pretty certain that isn’t how it works…

      I’m not sure if a “simple majority” only counts senators present at the time, or any seated senator, or …, but in any of those cases, then a majority of 99 people, is 50-49. If there is a tie (50-50) then it becomes a tie breaker to the vp, who right now will vote with the GOP. so the number of votes needed by McConnell either way is 50.

      So not seating them until after the tax bill nets McConnell nothing.
      Unless McConnell can manage to get rid of two democratic senators (bring the total number of senators to 98, and a tie becomes a 49-49 vote, meaning he can now lose 3 republicans and still pass a bill) not seating a senator just looks petty.

      • BJ

        >not seating a senator just looks petty.

        Not approving a supreme court nomination was as well, that didn’t stop them from doing that.

        • jon

          That isn’t JUST petty… it also helped drive towards a goal… of having some one besides obama appoint a supreme court justice, with the assumption a republican might win the whitehouse…
          Unless McConnell has a reason to believe that he could get rid of two democratic senators, dumping Franken and not seating a replacement is JUST petty, no real benefit.

  • L. Foonimin

    Consider two scenarios; one where Senator Franken gracefully resigns his seat and the Democratic Governor appoints a women, of whom there are several well qualified in MN. The national Democratic Party can maintain a moral high ground against the Roy Moore types in this country.

    Or second where Senator Franken and a certain segment close ranks and he keeps his Senate seat. Negating any political advantage against the conservative cartoon Moore is.

    Lets not argue about equivalency. We all agree that pedophilia is far and away worse than frat boy stupidity on a scale of bad behavior.

    The point is, I would rather have a new Democratic Senator from MN and be able to maintain a political advantage against the Brietbart/Bannon forces – and believe me the equivalency argument will be a very strong weapon in 2018 and 2020.

    Modern politics is a zero sum, win lose, good evil game … little room for nuance.

    • In the bigger picture, the Democrats will be completely unable to use Roy Moore and Donald Trump against Republicans in the mid-term elections. It doesn’t matter if the Franken isn’t on the same scale… it only matters from a political strategy point of view that it takes a weapon out of the Democratic playbook in ’18. There’s going to be a tremendous amount of pressure on Franken over this.

      In the world of political strategy, Franken’s own political career isn’t important.

      There’s certainly a debate to be over whether the way things are should be the way things are, but that doesn’t change the fact that that’s the way things are.

  • LOGAN’s Mom

    I feel that Senator Al Franken’s apology was heartfelt, direct and respectful. I stand by Senator Franken and I don’t want him to resign. CONTEXT and PERSONAL REFLECTION are important qualities for any government leader to embrace. At this point in time, do not want Senator Franken to resign.