Senator Al Franken (D-MN) is one of the latest perpetrators of sexual misconduct following the slew of those accused since the metaphorical levee broke in October when allegations against Harvey Weinstein emerged.
The latest details offer a disturbing glimpse into Franken’s character. Variety reported a Saturday Night Live skit idea developed by Franken in 1995 in which it would portray him raping 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl. The skit was described by Franken, saying, “‘I give the pills to Lesley Stahl. Then when Lesley’s passed out, I take her to the closet and rape her.’ Or ‘That’s why you never see Lesley until February.’ Or, ‘When she passes out I put her in various positions and take pictures of her.'”
The skit, which never aired, was described in a magazine feature of Saturday Night Live, in which Franken and other SNL writers discussed parody ideas for Andy Rooney. Along with writers Norm MacDonald and Jim Downey, Franken discussed a skit first involving Rooney finding a bottle of sedative pills, and what sort of fictional responses would follow.
That Franken’s “creative thinking” led him to rape is disturbing in itself.
The details were revealed back in 2008 during Franken’s Senate campaign. Republicans were criticized for their opposition research efforts that led to the revelation. Franken’s Playboy column from 2000, titled “Porn-O-Rama!” was also recounted, in which he described a fictional sex organization enabling sexual acts with humans and machines. Several additional troubling quotes were outlined in which Franken denigrated women.
Minnesota state Representative, Laura Brod (R), said at the time that the details revealed “a pattern of behavior which is not suitable for a U.S. senator.”
The behavior, however, did not appear to alarm Minnesota voters. Franken won the Senate seat in 2008 by a slim margin. He was reelected to a second term in 2014. Now that sexual allegations against Franken have emerged in the past week, some are going so far as to defend him.
On November 16, radio host and sports analyst, Leeann Tweeden, joined the #MeToo campaign when she tweeted a photo of Franken groping her. The photo was accompanied by a link to her blog, in which she explained in detail that during a 2006 USO tour, Franken made several unwanted advances on her. According to Tweeden, Franken forcibly kissed her while rehearsing for a skit without her consent, leaving her feeling “disgusted and violated.” Furthermore, Franken was pictured groping Tweeden’s breasts as she slept during their return flight.
Franken issued an apology to Tweeden, stating, “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but it wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
Another woman came forward accusing Franken of harassing behavior. Former ABC radio host, Melanie Morgan, said that she appeared on Politically Incorrect with Franken and other guests in 2000. After a political argument involving White House Office of Management and Budget data, Morgan said Franken “obsessed over it.”
“He approached me backstage, angrily called me out on those numbers and insisted he would prove he was right,” she said. “He wouldn’t leave me alone, he kept following me. As a woman, his presence and proximity to me felt very threatening and intimidating.” The behavior went on for days. Franken reportedly obtained her phone number from a show producer and took the harassment to repeated phone calls. It didn’t stop until she threatened to call police on him.
Some have called for Franken to resign, while others have rushed to defend his character and recount stories of Franken’s good behavior. Franken himself has asked for an ethics investigation, saying “I will gladly cooperate.” It’s unclear at this point whether or not Franken will resign.
This record of behavior is certainly troubling. That an individual who became a US Senator has made so many perverted, lewd, unwanted and harassing advances is disgusting in itself. It’s even worse he did so while violating the privacy and dignity of others for his own personal gain, and for the sake of humor.
It begs the question: How can he effectively work on behalf of his constituents and represent them when he clearly cannot distinguish between right and wrong? If Franken is as apologetic and remorseful as he claims, he will do the right thing and resign so Minnesota voters can choose someone who will defend their best interests.