The Case of Al Franken
July 22, 2019 11:48 AM   Subscribe

Jane Mayer, one of the leading scribes of the #MeToo movement (despite not getting her share of the credit), turns her attention to the scandal and resignation of Al Franken with "A close look at the accusations against the former senator".
posted by Etrigan (112 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
So does this mention the other women who came forward or is it just Tweeden? Cause it looks like it's just focused on Tweeden in which case I've lost a lot of respect for Mayer.
posted by asteria at 11:58 AM on July 22, 2019 [9 favorites]


The other claims are discussed about three quarters of the way down. Search for Lindsay Menz, Tina Dupuy, etc.
posted by mikeand1 at 12:09 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


A side point to the mainline of the story, but In the light of recent revelations, this paragraph at least is almost certainly true:
Stern asked, “Didn’t you say you got into Harvard, but you turned it down for modelling?” She answered, “Yeah, I was going to go.” Stern said, “What do you mean you were going to go? You didn’t get in!” Tweeden stuck to her story, explaining that her mother was friends with someone who got the children of celebrities into Ivy League schools—and could have secured her a spot, too. Stern asked for her SAT scores; she said that she couldn’t remember them, but guessed that they were around twelve hundred. “You couldn’t get into Harvard!” he said. Tweeden insisted, “I guarantee you, if I had wanted to, I could, absolutely.” Stern joked, “I was going to go to Harvard, but they didn’t want me. I was going to do Pam Anderson last night, too.”
posted by pharm at 12:13 PM on July 22, 2019 [6 favorites]


I will never be able to forget that he groped an active duty solider when visiting her base on a USO tour.

He can whine all he wants. I won’t forget.
posted by sallybrown at 12:15 PM on July 22, 2019 [30 favorites]


The fact that they're disclosed three-quarters of the way into the piece isn't a good thing, IMHO. Full disclosure: Tina's an acquaintance of mine, and I'm absolutely inclined to believe Tina.

In short, as Angus Johnston put it pithily: "What brought him down was the photo, and the seven other accusers, and—crucially—his own refusal to offer a coherent defense, a sincere and plausible apology, or even a full and honest account of his own behavior. Over the course of three weeks."

And the fact that he continues to evince very little remorse is a severe mark against him. Furthermore, the obsession with Franken obscures the fact that Minnesota has a bunch of Democrats that don't harass women, and that he's been replaced by Tina Smith, who's done an outstanding job as Senator.

As a man, I'm just absolutely sick and tired of giving men a pass simply because they're not as bad as Trump. I've got higher standards for my elected servants, and you should too.
posted by arkhangel at 12:18 PM on July 22, 2019 [108 favorites]


This article is a complete disaster, a black eye for the New Yorker and a stain on Jane Meyer’s other excellent reporting on #MeToo. Truly reprehensible, elitist wagon circling at its worst and total confirmation that we are better off without Franken. A true shame all around.
posted by mpbx at 12:18 PM on July 22, 2019 [33 favorites]


Mayer is correct that Franken was no Roy Moore. He was much more of a Biden level creeper, a violator of women's space and physical autonomy who repeatedly groped and invaded, but no, was no violent rapist.

She seems to be arguing that this means he should get a pass, though, that treating him as badly as a Moore or a Kavanaugh trivializes accusations of rape. Fuck off with this. Neither are acceptable, in society broadly but especially in public office.

This is rape apologia, nothing more.
posted by kafziel at 12:19 PM on July 22, 2019 [34 favorites]


Yes, if you needed some other indication of his compete lack of character—his willingness to play into this “Franken the martyr” image people spread around, and to go along with the sexist tripe that this is all Gillibrand’s fault—he has no remorse, only self-pity.
posted by sallybrown at 12:20 PM on July 22, 2019 [7 favorites]


Matthew Yglesias of Vox has a counterpoint to the article:
Yet the facts of the case are simple — his conduct was wrong, and it came to light under a series of circumstances when the best option for the causes Franken believes in was to step down, and so he stepped down. It’s true that he could have fought on, and perhaps from a purely self-interested perspective, he should have. But politicians aren’t supposed to be purely self-interested. At a critical moment, Franken actually did something selfless and correct. He deserves to be congratulated for it, but instead, he’s chosen to trash the potentially redemptive thread in the story and make things worse.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:20 PM on July 22, 2019 [65 favorites]


According to McIntyre, Hannity wanted to use the photograph in 2007, when it would have derailed Franken’s first Senate bid. But he deferred to Tweeden, who feared that, because she had been a lingerie model, her credibility would be attacked. “To Sean Hannity’s credit, he never said a word about it,” McIntyre told me.

Like, Jesus Christ, how awful does everyone else have to be for Sean Hannity to come off well in this article!
posted by mpbx at 12:23 PM on July 22, 2019 [32 favorites]


The other claims are discussed about three quarters of the way down. Search for Lindsay Menz, Tina Dupuy, etc.

That there are 7 or 8 accusers and yet 75% of the story focuses on 1 proves my point. Mayer lost all credibility with this, it's pure apologia. It's an insult to the victims both Franken's and others, to Gillibrand, and to Tina Smith who is doing a fine job without being a dumpster fire.
posted by asteria at 12:24 PM on July 22, 2019 [16 favorites]


It's just fatiguing. There is no confusion or mystery over "should I grope women". No one grows up thinking that groping women is the right thing to do, or that women like it when strange men grab them in public. Franken, like every other adult man, knew perfectly well that grabbing women was wrong and that they wouldn't like it, but he went ahead anyway.

Humiliating women when you know they will be unwilling to respond aggressively is a really gross thing to do. It's a huge character flaw. It's not okay.

I get so tired of this whole "well, he's a great guy in every other way, so it doesn't matter that he sexually humiliates women whenever he can get away with it" routine, and the "being sexually humiliated and not being able to do anything about it is no big deal, grow up and shut up" routine.
posted by Frowner at 12:30 PM on July 22, 2019 [53 favorites]


Geez, are all USO skits as fantastically bad as the ones described in this article? I imagine there’s plenty to indict about the “famously burlesque atmosphere” of the USO tour that this article tries to just grease right past.

Also I stand by my prior statements from the time of his resignation that anybody who was on SNL in the 70s probably has more than one thing going on which ought to limit their eligibility for public office.
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:31 PM on July 22, 2019 [12 favorites]


Given the anecdotes about Chris Farley, I'd extend the SNL questioning way beyond the 70s.
posted by rewil at 12:35 PM on July 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


There are a lot of baffling inclusions in this article given how little space was devoted to the claims of the non-Tweeden victims, but this one is well beyond baffling and into the realm of Mayer actively making excuses for Franken's behavior:
There was a related issue, however, where the staff had intervened: Franken could be physically obtuse. Staffers had told him not to swing his arms so much when he walked, and to close his mouth when he chewed. Petersen told me that he had “monster hands” and sometimes clapped her on the back so hard that it knocked the wind out of her. When he ate, spittle often flew across the table. “He’s sort of clumsy,” Gabrielle Zuckerman, who worked with him at Air America, the progressive talk-radio network, told me, recalling that a heavy backpack once caused him to fall off a chair, pinning him on his back like a turtle. He left the house with his shirt half tucked, and failed to pick up wet towels when staying with friends.
Physically obtuse? Is that the new "racially-infused"? You don't accidentally bumble your way into the acts that Franken is alleged to have committed.

I'm also tired of the invocation of "due process" to refer to anything other than an accused criminal's legal rights. Being a US Senator is a privilege, and one that can be taken away for reasons falling well short of a criminal conviction, which he will never have to face for any of these incidents.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:37 PM on July 22, 2019 [38 favorites]


Men who grope you this way do it because of the plausible deniability—“oh I wasn’t paying attention, my hand just HAPPENED to rest on your breast.” They know most of us feel too embarrassed in the moment to do anything, we just freeze. But I know what’s groping and what’s not. An adult man knows when his hand’s on my side and when it’s on my breast. The accidental gropers move their hands like they just touched a hot pan by mistake; the intentional gropers let it linger there.
posted by sallybrown at 12:41 PM on July 22, 2019 [45 favorites]


Wow, this story has it all. Slut-shaming (she did ribald jokes!!!), accusations of Tweeden being an attention-seeker, excusing creepy behavior as an accident or misunderstanding or just a quirky personality trait, a calvacade of supporters who insist he'd never do anything inappropriate, minimizing the accounts of the other Franken victims, painting victims as calculating and cruel, crocodile tears from Franken (literally a description of him crying) . . . Jane Mayer, what the hell are you doing?
posted by schroedinger at 12:46 PM on July 22, 2019 [25 favorites]


I think my favorite was the subtle gaslighting of the Congressional staffer who, sadly for Mayer, held strong.

That was *chef's kiss*
posted by asteria at 12:47 PM on July 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


I finished the article a couple hours ago and have been wrestling with it since.

...Actually, that's inaccurate. I have been wrestling with the case of Al Franken for a year and a half now. Jane Mayer does an excellent job of marshalling facts about how and why Tweeden's allegations were carefully packaged by her employer and other conservative colleagues to be as damaging as possible. She strives mightily but less successfully to provide context to the circumstances of that incident and the others we know about. She barely manages to scratch the surface of how to judge bad conduct that falls short of criminality and where righteousness shades into absolutism. And she fails pretty miserably to rehabilitate Franken himself; the parade of powerful people essentially saying a variation on "he's just clumsy and clueless" and "I've never seen him harass anyone" comes off tone-deaf at best and elitist victim-blaming at worst.
posted by minervous at 12:52 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


Just because rape has not proven to be disqualifying for higher office does not mean that groping SHOULD NOT be disqualifying. You shouldn't have to be as bad as Roy Moore to be shunned out of office.
posted by rikschell at 12:59 PM on July 22, 2019 [19 favorites]


I’ve worked with Tina Dupuy and I believe her.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:01 PM on July 22, 2019 [10 favorites]


The thing is, even if you sexually harass a right-winger, you still sexually harassed someone.

As long as I can remember, I've encountered left-wing men who destroy campaigns and organizations because they are unwilling or unable to refrain from harassing and abusing women, and there's always a lot of hand-wringing about what a shame it is that the campaign collapses because of rape charges or whatever.

Admittedly, this is a structural problem - too much power differential, too little accountability, too little transparency, too little willingness to get real about how often men harass and abuse women. If organizations were more realistic about this stuff in the first place, there would be fewer male leaders and they would have a lot less power and discretion.

Now, I am willing to believe that Franken has a problem rather than is a terrible person. I'm willing to believe that anxiety or self-sabotage or something creates a compulsion for him to do this creepy-transgressive thing when it can only do him harm politically and harm the causes he believes in. I'm willing to believe that he's not so much getting pleasure from humiliating women as in the grip of a compulsion that needs to be treated in therapy. But that's what you get therapy for, and that's why you don't, eg, hug constituents when you can't trust yourself.

We have a whole system without transparency and accountability in which [mostly but not exclusively] white men are given far, far too much power over day to day interactions with others. We know that many, many men are socialized to humiliate and hurt women, but we don't take steps to remove the conditions that allow this. We as a society basically aren't willing to admit that the Ideal Lone Powerful Male Leader is a product of patriarchy and toxic masculinity, not an ideal to keep chasing.
posted by Frowner at 1:07 PM on July 22, 2019 [42 favorites]


What's really annoying about this is that it is completely plausible to me that the Tweeden allegations are pure ratfucking -- that everything including the picture was normal rehearsal and clowning around on a USO tour (the show sounds horrifyingly sexist, but I guess that's a USO norm?) and that she made the allegations in bad faith.

But that leaves seven other women who said he groped/inappropriately kissed them, and there's nothing at all in Meyer's article that suggests they were part of a coordinated conspiracy. I don't believe that seven women confused ordinary clumsiness with intentional groping. At which point he should have resigned even if Tweeden was trying to ratfuck him, because there's plenty of real misconduct to justify his resignation.
posted by LizardBreath at 1:09 PM on July 22, 2019 [35 favorites]


I'm curious why people see this article in particular as being too nice to Franken, I came away from it knowing a lot more about the situation and pretty convinced that he should have resigned. Is the issue about how much time was granted to accusers, or more in the order it was presented? I do agree that the choice of last paragraph shows an agenda.
posted by JZig at 1:09 PM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm curious why people see this article in particular as being too nice to Franken, I came away from it knowing a lot more about the situation and pretty convinced that he should have resigned. Is the issue about how much time was granted to accusers, or more in the order it was presented?

I think a lot of the reaction is being driven by the way both the NYer twitter account and Mayer herself are framing the article on twitter; it's very "he was railroaded," "justice WAS NOT done," etc.
posted by COBRA! at 1:16 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


Even if the case against Franked were weak (and I don't think it is) we got a perfectly reliable Democratic senator in his place, could make the case against Roy Moore with no accusations of hypocrisy, and do it again with Brett Kavanaugh. Having the moral high ground and being able to say, over and over, "we're just applying the same standard to your candidates and nominees that we expect of our own" is worth it, and Democrats should do exactly the same thing is another one of their own is found to have behaved similarly.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:17 PM on July 22, 2019 [54 favorites]


Deeply disappointing. Until now, I naively held Franken to a slightly higher standard than other groping males, thinking "well, at least he immediately admitted fault and acknowledged he should not be in a position of power". I'd hoped the article would be about someone reflecting on his past with a great deal of regret - and an attempt to change/educate other males in similar positions. But no...
posted by greenhornet at 1:22 PM on July 22, 2019 [9 favorites]


Probably the most stupid thing I have ever posted to MetaFilter was a defense of the Al Franken photo on the grounds that it was pretty clear to me he wasn't touching her, just making it look that way on camera. As if even PRETENDING to grope a woman (as a kind of humorous stunt?) is in any way acceptable. My punishment is having that comment attached to my name forever.

I turned around within the same thread, but god. Stupid, stupid me. Stupid, stupid Franken. The motivation of the accuser doesn't matter, Franken's motivation doesn't matter. This is not acceptable behavior and the demands to resign were totally the right call. Not saying you have to be totally perfect... I though Cory Booker's column in his college paper was a legit way to handle personal growth.
posted by rikschell at 1:25 PM on July 22, 2019 [11 favorites]


This article is gross as fuck and part of a #MeToo backlash. Like, yes, the environment existed where you could be shitty to women and it was socially acceptable, but that doesn’t mean it was ever /okay/. Yes, women would pretend they were cooler with it than they were, but that still doesn’t mean it’s okay.

Franken is like “it’s just normal for me to kiss women on the lips” but he was told to stop and just kept doing it, and like...that shows an entitlement that it doesn’t matter what other people want, just what he feels. And like - that’s not how sexual harassment works. It doesn’t matter if you were trying to kiss someone on the lips to “thank” them (wtf) or for reasons of getting your rocks off - the problem is that you feel entitled to their body and don’t care what they want.
posted by corb at 1:36 PM on July 22, 2019 [29 favorites]


Old dudes, young dudes, all dudes - be like Keanu. Hover hands with people you don't know (and maybe people you do).

How is Biden still getting a pass for being a similarly weird handsy grandpa? Are we so desperate to beat Trump?
posted by schoolgirl report at 1:41 PM on July 22, 2019 [8 favorites]


I'm reminded of something I said four years ago on the grey:
[It's] a pattern of what gets talked about: the consequences of the accusation for the man, how his life is ruined because of this terrible accusation, the weight of such a thing. People speak up for his character, even if they're not commenting on the woman's character. If he's young, everyone grieves for his bright future. If he's wealthy and established, people murmur about the cost to his reputation.

Things that do not get talked about: the cost to the woman of coming forward. The potential trauma to her, not only of the assault but of the lack of privacy that comes with a public accusation of rape and trial. If she's presenting physical evidence, people pick at it--no one talks about how rape kits are often pretty traumatic in and of themselves to collect. If people discuss her actions, it is generally in the context of criticizing her decisions and choices. But mostly, people ignore the assaulted woman and her aftermath in favor of worrying about what will happen to the man.
That is what this article is doing. That is the pattern it occupies. If you don't want to lose your reputation, stop fucking doing it. Keep your hands to yourself unless you have explicit consent with no lines of coercion (e.g. career entanglements). Keep your mouth to yourself, too. Act like a goddammed professional in your workplace.

Why are these the motherfucking standards that these people have so much fucking trouble with, such that everyone crowds around and whispers in horror when someone breaches them? Could we go one, just one figure for these fuckers where we speak about the people who said "this hurt me" for half as long as we pontificate about the trauma to the man who did the hurting?

It's enough to make me kick a fucking trash can, man.
posted by sciatrix at 1:47 PM on July 22, 2019 [37 favorites]


How is Biden still getting a pass

Biden is playing his bullshit up in order to cosy up to the people who think MeToo is about three steps too far and needs to be taken down many pegs. Biden is trying to ride to power on, in part, a conservative-Democrat backlash to MeToo. He's literally leaning into it.

Is he getting a pass? Who gives it to him? And what are they afraid of?
posted by sciatrix at 1:50 PM on July 22, 2019 [6 favorites]


The absolute worst liberal take I heard in the last Minnesota Governor's election was from a guy who thought Franken should join the fray (note for non-Minnesotans - we had a DFL governor who was resigning, we had a number of decent DFL candidates for governor, and we currently have an okay DFL governor - there was no reason to think that we needed Franken in that race for any reason).

There are so many people that are angry that he resigned that they're willing to champion his return to politics - thinking he is the One Man who can do what he can, no matter how many women he gropes. And I liked him as my senator, but he wasn't special enough to excuse what he did.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:20 PM on July 22, 2019 [6 favorites]


I'm still reading it, but it is kind of a weird article. I keep wanting to go back to this bit in the beginning:
It was a sunny day, but the shades were mostly drawn. Takeout containers of hummus and carrot sticks were set out on the kitchen table. His wife, Franni Bryson, was stuck in their apartment in Washington, D.C., with a cold, and he had evidently done the best he could to be hospitable. But the place felt like the kind of man cave where someone hides out from the world
It's just weird. Is the implication that his wife could have been expected to take care of the hospitality for them if she'd been there? That an unusually talented politician who functioned at the highest levels is just sort of cluelessly doing "the best he could" at hosting a journalist but doesn't know how and can't be expected to? Why bring in the image of hiding out in a man cave, which is the stereotypical retreat of men fleeing from supposedly nagging wives and supposedly ignorable responsibilities? If the idea is that she got the impression he'd given up, why not just say that, without all vague intangible gender weirdness?

I was thinking maybe the article later ties back into the man cave thing and shows Franken as self-pitying and self-indulgent instead of taking responsibility, but from the comments here I guess not.
posted by trig at 2:23 PM on July 22, 2019 [23 favorites]


I just still can’t believe Jane Mayer wrote this.
posted by sallybrown at 3:09 PM on July 22, 2019 [12 favorites]


I just still can’t believe Jane Mayer wrote this.

Me neither! Jane, I am VERY DISAPPOINTED IN YOU. After all the great work she has done on #MeToo related subjects and now this word vomit defending sexual abuse? I wonder what has caused this change of heart. You've got some 'splainin to do, Jane Mayer.

Is Mayer trying to either pave the way for a Franken comeback (doing what? How many people outside Twitter and Daily Kos want him back in office?) or "please vote for Joe Biden and not that horrible Elizabeth Warren who is going to take my friends' toys away?"

To paraphrase what Matt Yglesias wrote in Vox, you don't get to say "All I did was break people's legs! It's not like I'm a serial killer or anything!" This "boys will be boys" apologia has got to stop. There is plenty of evidence - even in this article - that Franken had, shall we say, poor boundaries and was boorish to women.

If I were Kirsten Gillibrand, I'd make hay out of "Baby Boomers Hate Me!" because you know who is going to catch the blame. Hint: not Chuck Schumer. It really makes me angry. So what if a "good man" has lost his job? A good woman is having her career ruined because of a term Kate Manne has coined: himpathy. Where's the her-pathy, for Gillibrand and for Franken's victims?

We don't need Al Franken, or any other Great Man. Minnesota has Tina Smith, and Ilhan Omar too! We have numerous powerful Democratic voices - mostly women and/or POC - who have not harassed anyone. Time to stop pining for a Great White Male Hope and elect as many great Democrats as we can.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:28 PM on July 22, 2019 [31 favorites]


It's just weird. Is the implication that his wife could have been expected to take care of the hospitality for them if she'd been there? That an unusually talented politician who functioned at the highest levels is just sort of cluelessly doing "the best he could" at hosting a journalist but doesn't know how and can't be expected to?

That detail stuck out to me too and meshes pretty well with things like having to be told to chew with his mouth closed and not swing his arms all over the place in tight quarters. Little details like that suggest that he's someone with not a lot of regard for his impact on the people immediately around him.
posted by treepour at 3:29 PM on July 22, 2019 [8 favorites]


We don't need Al Franken, or any other Great Man. Minnesota has Tina Smith, and Ilhan Omar too! We have numerous powerful Democratic voices - mostly women and/or POC - who have not harassed anyone. Time to stop pining for a Great White Male Hope and elect as many great Democrats as we can.

Aside from the fact that he used to be a comedy writer, there was nothing unique about Al Franken as a political leader. You could've replaced him with any standard-issue liberal state senator and hardly anyone would have noticed. - @Trillburne

With very few exceptions these people are completely interchangeable because they’re hiring from the same general pool of staffers and policy wonks. All that changed when Franken left was the name on the door. - @neoliberal_dad
posted by kafziel at 3:32 PM on July 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


Is the implication that he's just so very clueless that of course he "accidentally" groped women?

I mean, I know a guy who many years ago now did a legit creepy thing and was sorry afterward. He went to therapy, he apologized, he did exactly as the woman he'd creeped on requested, he read a bunch of feminist books. He's a guy who did something wrong but was not a bad person, so he took responsibility and took steps to make sure he would never do anything like it again. I'm saying that I have some time for guys who, out of a mixture of entitlement and being kind of screwed up, do something wrong but work to come back from it. I just don't get this whole "look at hapless me with my hummus and man cave, I could not possibly take responsibility for grabbing multiple women".
posted by Frowner at 3:38 PM on July 22, 2019 [21 favorites]


And poking around various proggie sites and twitters, the howls of "But we NEEDED him! He was a GREAT MAN!" ring hollow to me. What did Franken do that Tina Smith isn't doing? Make witty quips? Chew with his mouth open?

We are really, really limited in what one Senator, no matter how effective, can actually do when 1) we are the minority party and 2) Mitch McConnell is leading the majority. Some of this sounds suspiciously like Joe Biden priding himself on "working across the aisle" (with racist Dixiecrats!). No matter how great the caliber of our senators, we're fucked unless and until we can get a majority. I don't think you have to be a super political junkie to understand that. It's frustrating that so many Americans have this attitude "fix this for meeeee!" when they can barely be bothered to vote. Franken isn't going to fix it for you, nor is Tina Smith, nor is anyone else, unless you get your butts to the ballot box even when it's "just" a midterm.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:02 PM on July 22, 2019 [14 favorites]


I know, and as someone who is kind of physically and socially awkward and sometimes clueless about social mores I actually have a lot of sympathy for people making clueless mistakes. There are two issues for the genuinely clueless: what you do when the mistake is pointed out, and what about the lessons society directs or doesn't direct at you enabled you to be clueless in the first place. Those are questions of personal and social responsibility and they're at the heart of MeToo.

The thing that gets me with the article is that I can't tell how much is Franken being "look at hapless me" versus Mayer being "look at hapless him", or both. I mean, maybe his blinds were closed because his neighbors are nudists or he was watching TV, maybe besides hummus and carrots he offered coffee and tea and lemonade, maybe that's what his wife always serves guests too and maybe they were sitting comfortably in a well-appointed living room with art and pictures on the wall and his socks were the expensive wool kind and he was getting into health food and yoga. Sometimes you get the feeling that a writer is doing their best to convey as accurate a picture as possible, researching the context and background to make sure they're not jumping to conclusions, and making sure not to include details that might provide a misleading impression. Other times you get the feeling that a writer is going all out for effect, and whether that effect is warranted or not is something they consider incidental.

I feel like in an article like this, on a subject where responsibility is so central, the writer has the responsibility to own their editorial position and own it explicitly, without casual implications and insinuations and certainly without eliding the inconvenient parts. There's almost no space given to Franken fans who believe it's good and important that he resigned, for example, but they arguments they bring are no less important than the many arguments the article includes from people who regret his resignation. A more conscientious article would have addressed them.
posted by trig at 4:22 PM on July 22, 2019 [7 favorites]


Any celebrity or politician with a huge power differential from the people they interact with needs to be cognizant of how they interact. They need to take it as a given that at some point in their career they might make someone uncomfortable, and watch for it. I mean, everyone should, but especially people with power.

Franken isn't Weinstein sure. He's also not in jail facing charges. It's a privilege to serve in the Senate, and I'm ok with him losing that privilege.

I think the Democrats differing in their handling with him from the Republicans on Roy Moore is a good thing.
posted by gryftir at 4:37 PM on July 22, 2019 [8 favorites]


I seem to remember former Representative John Conyers being accused of sexual harassment and asked to resign about the same time Franken's accusations came to light. Conyers was first elected to Congress in 1965, meaning, he was in Congress for longer than many of us were alive - so if we want to argue for "value," winning election for all these years has weight.

Yet I hear crickets in defense of Conyers, no "he's too valuable" or "we're eating our own" or even "But he's OUR son-of-a-bitch!" My take-away is, if you want to harass women, and in general act like a boor, then be white, wealthy, and a celebrity. Or at least be white and witty. But do be white, please.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:47 PM on July 22, 2019 [9 favorites]


The article is getting So. Much. Attention. also Approval and Sympathy. I was a bit apprehensive about reading this thread, and now relieved.

I would be willing to doubt Tweeden, and the USO tour was well in his past. But the article really glosses over the women who say he groped them, at least several pretty recently. And, Nope. Yes, think Franken was a terrific Senator, smart, good instincts, good at rallying voters, persuasive. The book on Limbaugh's lies was kind of brilliant. I always thought he resigned because he was in the wrong and knew it.

The Lying Corrupt President is getting away with it. Joe Biden is, too. Seems like Franken is bummed that he didn't just tough it out. And preparing his Comeback. Cause an article like this is a bid for a comeback. Franken is smart and funny and he could be using his time to fight the lies and corruption in this truly vile administration. He is uniquely well placed to be a voice for pointing out just how rotten, sexist, racist, vicious, and corrupt things are in the White House, how rotten McConnell is, how bad things really are, how much worse they get every fucking day. As far as I can tell, most Americans are ready to forgive him. The idea of him running again makes me squeamish, but I'm not in his state so I don't have a vote. I'd like to see him on the Sunday morning shows, on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and the Daily Show. Dude, deal with your faults and leverage your strengths.
posted by theora55 at 4:51 PM on July 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


Franken is smart and funny and he could be using his time to fight the lies and corruption in this truly vile administration. He is uniquely well placed to be a voice for pointing out just how rotten, sexist, racist, vicious, and corrupt things are in the White House, how rotten McConnell is, how bad things really are, how much worse they get every fucking day.

I agree with your broader point that we don't need Franken back, but I think that if he'd tried to be a voice in the way you're describing it would have just kicked off precisely the bitter back-and-forth that's going on now. Those for whom he is irredeemable don't want him to exist in public space, period, those for whom he is a martyr would take any statement, even unrelated, as marching orders. In the political/media environment we live in now there's really no such thing as a second life, no matter how deliberately distanced from the first.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:04 PM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


Call me cynical, but I think the push for humanization of Franken has a lot more to do with the fact that Smokin' Joe Biden has about no worse than a 25% chance to be the last line of defense against four more years of.....this.

Eight fairly prominent Democrats walked back the torches and pitchforks that were pulled out two years ago, hoping to avoid:

"Dear Senator Flashpants, you felt then-Senator Franken should resign from the Senate, why aren't you holding your own presidential candidate to that standard??"

Trump could grope someone on 5th Avenue and his base wouldn't budge. It wouldn't even be news. Wagons are circling, for better or worse.
posted by splen at 5:15 PM on July 22, 2019 [8 favorites]


This is not a comment on the abuse issue. However, the idea that Franken could be replaced by anyone in the Senate is so far not true, in my opinion. In hearings he was on top of every issue and questioned people very effectively. I have not seen anyone else in the Senate you can say the same thing about, except Warren and Harris. From what I hear most of them are morons. Tina Smith has made no impression on me at all in the past 18 months. I can't tell you what she has done other than cast D votes. Sure, there are no end of people who can do that. (I can say the same of my D Senator who has been there 14 years. Never heard his name mentioned regarding anything important.) The loss of Franken's rhetorical power was a big one, and we are all diminished as a result of his self-pwn.
posted by M-x shell at 5:17 PM on July 22, 2019 [7 favorites]


Trump could grope someone on 5th Avenue and his base wouldn't budge. It wouldn't even be news. Wagons are circling, for better or worse.

Bergdorf's happens to be on 5th Avenue, and Trump raped someone there, so presumably you are correct.
posted by jamjam at 5:30 PM on July 22, 2019 [10 favorites]


I have not seen anyone else in the Senate you can say the same thing about, except Warren and Harris.

Harris is the one who replaced Franken on the Judiciary committee.
posted by asteria at 5:46 PM on July 22, 2019 [14 favorites]


I miss the Al Franken I thought he was. But he's not the guy I thought he was. He was doing a lot of good, but if this was at the heart and core of him, then eventually well, he wouldn't be doing that good, and his NOT getting over himself disappoints me because I used to think he might be capable. But noooooooo.

Anyway, shame to Jane for this one.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:46 PM on July 22, 2019 [10 favorites]


Harris is the one who replaced Franken on the Judiciary committee.

In the words of Beyoncé, “let me upgrade you.”
posted by sallybrown at 5:49 PM on July 22, 2019 [15 favorites]


I grew up during the Eighties, a time when one false accusation of misconduct would often spur several follow up accusations. Often, facts of the case would show these accusations could not be true. Often, these accusers would genuinely believe they remembered the event.

I have concerns in regards to Franken's innocence. Seven accusations of groping may seem like a lot, but, over the course of several years, a celebrity Senator like Franken may have been taking pictures with thousands of people.

Franken is unlike Weinstein or Kavanaugh in that those who knew and worked closely with him feel this behavior from him is out of character, as opposed to being an open secret. That's not proof of anything, but it carries some weight.

Most of all, I am a strong believer in due process. I see no reason why Franken should not have been investigated by an ethics committee as he requested. An accusation alone, for me, is not always a good enough reason to strong arm someone into ending their career.
posted by xammerboy at 5:50 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


I miss the Al Franken I thought he was.

Totally.

I don't understand why these motherfuckers (Louis, Franken, Aziz, etc) think they deserve to return to fame and spotlight. Find a different career, one that doesn't give you power that you abuse. I *especially* don't want Franken to come back, because at best he will split D votes, and at utter worst he would win.
posted by graventy at 5:53 PM on July 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


However, the idea that Franken could be replaced by anyone in the Senate is so far not true, in my opinion. In hearings he was on top of every issue and questioned people very effectively. I have not seen anyone else in the Senate you can say the same thing about, except Warren and Harris. From what I hear most of them are morons. Tina Smith has made no impression on me at all in the past 18 months. I can't tell you what she has done other than cast D votes.

I agree with you that he was good in the judiciary committee, but Harris is a more than adequate replacement. If we want to see more fire in Democratic Senators, we should be primarying the hell out of people like Dianne Feinstein, Tom Carper, Chuck Schumer, Ben Cardin, etc. Sometimes it feels like the Democratic party is sucking the lifeblood out of its members. Anyone who is still mournfully invoking the lost specter of civility (and touting their bipartisan bona fides) in the Senate is a problem. It may not be a good idea to go after red and purple state Democrats, but we can at least get Democratic-leaning states in order.

I know I shouldn't blame Facebook for everything, but I swear my mother was disgusted by Franken (and cheered his exit) when this was all unfolding. A couple of years later...somehow...she swears up and down that Franken was railroaded, that he shouldn't have resigned, that she always felt this way, etc. My mom is not that sort of person, not usually, but it definitely makes me think of whatever the hell was going on in Jane Mayer's brain when writing this piece. I blame Facebook.
posted by grandiloquiet at 6:00 PM on July 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


xammerboy: I have concerns in regards to Franken's innocence. Seven accusations of groping may seem like a lot, but, over the course of several years, a celebrity Senator like Franken may have been taking pictures with thousands of people.

Franken is unlike Weinstein or Kavanaugh in that those who knew and worked closely with him feel this behavior from him is out of character, as opposed to being an open secret. That's not proof of anything, but it carries some weight.

Most of all, I am a strong believer in due process. I see no reason why Franken should not have been investigated by an ethics committee as he requested. An accusation alone, for me, is not always a good enough reason to strong arm someone into ending their career.


This is a joke, right? False accusations? Due process? Ethics? What a familiar sounding bingo card. Scott Lemieux via Lawyers, Guns and Money has a good take on what he calls "Dude Process."

The idea of seven women being in on a conspiracy theory, let alone """false accusations""" is laughable. That's not how it works.

"Due Process" is a legal term, it doesn't apply to resigning from your job. Anyone who lives in America knows that employment is mostly at-will anyway. There is none, 0, due process for being fired or asked to resign.

And this is a spectacularly bad take from Jane Mayer. It would be interesting to know just why she wrote this.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:09 PM on July 22, 2019 [24 favorites]


I grew up during the Eighties, a time when one false accusation of misconduct would often spur several follow up accusations. Often, facts of the case would show these accusations could not be true. Often, these accusers would genuinely believe they remembered the event.

I grew up in the Eighties as well, and the only thing I can think you’re referring to is the child abuse / devil worship stuff. That’s very different from accusations made by adult women who have no connection to each other.
posted by sallybrown at 6:12 PM on July 22, 2019 [30 favorites]


I grew up in the Eighties as well, and the only thing I can think you’re referring to is the child abuse / devil worship stuff. That’s very different from accusations made by adult women who have no connection to each other.

Exactly. This wasn't a case of preschoolers being fed "recovered memories" and being coaxed and bullied to say what adults wanted. These were grown women. And they came forward without any recovered memories. And Franken wasn't thrown into jail, unlike the accused day care workers. Franken just...lost his cushy Senate job.

The way the timeline worked, a lengthy ethics investigation wouldn't have worked. The Alabama special election was looming, and beyond that, the 2018 midterms. It was good optics for Franken to quietly step down. And, again, we didn't lose the seat, he was replaced by a Democrat. If he had stayed in his seat while the ethics investigations dragged on, we might not have had a blue wave. We certainly wouldn't have got Doug Jones (D-AL).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:30 PM on July 22, 2019 [10 favorites]


those who knew and worked closely with him feel this behavior from him is out of character, as opposed to being an open secret. That's not proof of anything, but it carries some weight

Is it really? Given how frequently this is shown to be inaccurate, this seems to be alternately equivalent to "So long as you don't abuse the people around you or can find sufficiently high-profile people to keep close to you, you're safe!"

(which, that's not an inaccurate description of how things have gone up to this point, but it's hardly something to aspire to)
posted by CrystalDave at 6:39 PM on July 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


What drove the New Yorker's Jane Mayer into Al Franken denialism? (Amanda Marcotte, Salon)
That's what is ultimately most baffling about the avid Franken defenders. They seem to be motivated by loyalty to Democrats, but the actions they prescribe would have only hurt actual Democrats in power, especially Democratic women in the Senate, and hobbled their ability to take a clear moral stand on the issue of sexual harassment and abuse. Which is why it's not unreasonable to believe that ultimately they aren't actually worried about the Democrats winning, so much as that they don't want to feel bad about having placed their trust in Franken in the first place.

Mayer's piece, meanwhile, is an example of how even the smartest people — perhaps especially the smartest people — can let their own wishes blinker them to ugly realities. It's crushing to believe that Franken, who was widely regarded as a good guy, could have done what he was accused of doing. So thousands of otherwise smart people have put their powerful brains to work coming up with elaborate rationalizations to dismiss a story they don't like in favor of one they do. Mayer's story is a sad illustration that even those we think are immune to that trap can fall into it, if they like someone enough to excuse his inexcusable conduct.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:44 PM on July 22, 2019 [15 favorites]


This article makes it seem plausible that Tweeden's account was part of a political hit.

At the same time it damns Franken more clearly than ever as a man who habitually kissed or tried to kiss women inappropriately and seems to continue to have no clue why that's an issue.

The bar should be a hell of a lot higher than "not as bad as Weinstein or Moore."
posted by Zed at 6:57 PM on July 22, 2019 [9 favorites]


This has been a very difficult thing for me to come to terms with. I moved to Minnesota during Franken's tenure, and I was fond of telling people that he was part of the reason (he wasn't, it was for a job). His voice, speaking truth to power and doing it in a humorous, relatable way, was absolutely unique in the senate. Don't forget, he is a big part of the reason Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.

I have met both Al Franken and Tina Smith in person, one-on-one, in small venues. Tina Smith is no replacement. Her big issue is buying insulin from Canada. Yes, insulin should be more affordable. Health care in general should be more affordable, and there's literally a national debate happening about that right now, but she is not interested in that, apparently. With Senator Klobuchar gamely soldiering on in her improbable bid for president, the Minnesota delegation is weak-sauce right now.

I'm right there with most of you: stepping down was the right thing to do. But whatever you want to say about Al Franken, that he's a creep, an abuser, whatever, don't kid yourself that he wasn't also incredibly effective.
posted by dbx at 6:59 PM on July 22, 2019 [6 favorites]


I am a strong believer in due process

Are you? What is the source of the guarantee of due process? What does it, in fact, guarantee?
posted by praemunire at 7:00 PM on July 22, 2019 [6 favorites]


To be honest, the way that Franken is trying to spin this - as if he's the main victim here instead of coming back in a few years at least paying lip service about realizing what he did was wrong and playing up the fact that he was willing to step down for the greater good - makes me think that maybe he isn't as good at politics as I thought he was.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:32 PM on July 22, 2019 [12 favorites]


In response to everyone saying: I can't believe Jane Meyer wrote this, or saying they've lost respect for her: I think it's very telling that she leads off the story by quoting so many people who say they regret their actions in hindsight. She makes clear that Tweeden's allegations aren't credible; she attributes words from the script of the skit to Franken himself, and other women who performed the same skit with Franken clearly and strongly disagree with basically her entire account. Tweeden lied about many other facts of the accusation as well, including the date of the infamous 'groping' photograph, and her claim that it was taken specifically for her. Nobody can corroborate her story, and everybody who talked to Mayer disputes it. This isn't nothing.

We should believe women, and again, stepping down was the right thing to do. But wow - the characterizations many of you are making of this article really show some selective reading. Yes, there are people saying "Al wouldn't do that! SHucks!" But there are also people saying: "I was there with them on that tour and I didn't see any of that", and furthermore, "Tweeden's account of how these things go is just generally wrong on the facts".

In short, and based on Mayer's reporting (and my contemporaneous memory, on which I am not relying here), Tweeden's accusation seems to be bullshit. Franken's response was measured and appropriate based on his version of events. The only other account by someone willing to go on the record is: "Franken, she said, had squeezed her waist in a creepy way for several seconds." I just don't see how all this adds up to an open-and-shut case. I really don't understand how all of you are so damn sure that he's an awful person, when these are the actual facts.
posted by dbx at 7:43 PM on July 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


But wow - the characterizations many of you are making of this article really show some selective reading.

everybody who talked to Mayer disputes it

based on Mayer's reporting

Franken's response was measured and appropriate based on his version of events.

Don't use the article to substantiate itself.

I think it's very telling that she leads off the story by quoting so many people who say they regret their actions in hindsight.

I also think it's telling, but in a different way than you do, it seems.
posted by mpbx at 7:48 PM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


I didn't think Franken was an awful person because of the things he did, I thought he was a boor, and I was disappointed. I hoped that his resignation was the first step in a process that would truly redeem him and serve as an object lesson for men as to how to address these issues in a mature, thoughtful way that demonstrates genuine growth.

I think he's an awful person because of how he's handling the situation now.
posted by mpbx at 7:51 PM on July 22, 2019 [12 favorites]


The only other account by someone willing to go on the record is: "Franken, she said, had squeezed her waist in a creepy way for several seconds." I just don't see how all this adds up to an open-and-shut case. I really don't understand how all of you are so damn sure that he's an awful person, when these are the actual facts.

Because I read the seven other accounts published at the time. You’re not correct that only one other accuser agreed to go on record. Even the accusers whose names weren’t published publicly were vetted by the news orgs that published their stories.

Why they didn’t want to go on record with Mayer, for this particular story isn’t clear. After reading how slanted it is, I suspect they may have had good reason.
posted by sallybrown at 7:58 PM on July 22, 2019 [22 favorites]


I'm not arguing that there was any conspiracy. Many adults experience false memories, especially in regards to events that happened years ago, and especially when prompted, as one would be if told of Tweeden's accusations.

There are several aspects of the accusations that I find odd. In fact, there are too many for me to list. It's odd this groping by a celebrity took place so publicly in front of staff and supporters while also being potentially photographed. It's odd no one remembers any one else out of thousands of pictures jerking away or acting uncomfortable.

This means nothing in and of itself, but it does suggest an investigation, the standard usually applied in cases like these, should have happened. When Kavanaugh was accused, Democrats requested an investigation. I have still not heard a reason why there should not have been an investigation.

Perhaps that is why Mayer is writing this article? I am strong proponent of the MeToo movement, but also believe that the movement will be weakened if it adopts an anti-investigatory, anti-due process stance. People can be believed and the laws can change and accusers can still be questioned and contexts better understood.

Also: In the United States, you can be fired for no reason or any reason, but that reason has to be true. You cannot be fired for missing work if you can prove you were at work. Firing someone for sexual harassment or groping without any evidence would almost surely lead to a lawsuit.
posted by xammerboy at 8:02 PM on July 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


that treating him as badly as a Moore or a Kavanaugh trivializes accusations of rape. Fuck off with this. Neither are acceptable, in society broadly but especially in public office.

This is rape apologia, nothing more.


I agree with you. Confirming Kavanaugh into his SCOTUS office was entirely rape apologia.
posted by hippybear at 8:42 PM on July 22, 2019


I just reread the groping accusations against Franken: https://abcnews.go.com/US/sen-al-frankens-accusers-accusations-made/story?id=51406862

I was pretty sure based on what I was reading here that there were some details I had forgotten, but no. If anything, these accusations are less credible than I remembered, most being anonymous women who called into radio shows or magazines with a story about how years ago Franken squeezed their waist or cupped their breast during a photo op.

I'm not sure an investigation could be done into these accusations. These are mostly anonymous calls, and in most of the cases, it's highly questionable whether anything untoward was intended or not, even in the opinion of the accusers. There are two accusations that are plainly untoward: one of unwanted kissing and one of asking to share a bathroom, but they're highly questionable.
posted by xammerboy at 8:44 PM on July 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


It's odd this groping by a celebrity took place so publicly in front of staff and supporters while also being potentially photographed. It's odd no one remembers any one else out of thousands of pictures jerking away or acting uncomfortable.

I'm curious, are you similarly skeptical of the George H W Bush groping stories?

I've been groped in public. I basically ran away from the situation, and spent the rest of the day muttering "what the HELL." Most people try to avoid causing a fuss, especially around someone we were excited to meet.
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:50 PM on July 22, 2019 [17 favorites]


I am skeptical of any accusation lacking detail made by an anonymous caller to a radio show involving a highly publicized event and celebrity in response to a request for callers. I gauge the credibility of accusations on a case by case basis.
posted by xammerboy at 8:56 PM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


Xammerboy, Tina Dupuy's account has been linked in this thread (here it is again if you missed it). Her name is on it, and she has no reason to want to tear down Franken. What's more likely - that Franken had a weakness that the right exploited (which in no way excuses Franken's actions), or that all of these women just managed to misremember being groped by a prominent politician?

This wasn't a story before #metoo for the same reason Biden being creepy around women wasn't a story before #metoo - journalists simply didn't think that high powered men groping women was a story.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:01 PM on July 22, 2019 [25 favorites]


Maybe it's just the Minnesota connection, but I'm getting a lot of deja vu from the Garrison Keillor case; I don't think that Keillor ever apologized, but there seems to be a common apologia for both of them in play: that these men who examined and parodied human behavior and foibles for literal decades could somehow be oblivious as to the effect of their own behavior toward women. After getting fired off the radio, Keillor went on a tour that seemed to be nothing more or less than reassuring himself that he still had fans, which he apparently does, and this seems to be prepping for Franken to do the same.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:45 PM on July 22, 2019 [10 favorites]


Xammerboy, where are you getting "mostly anonymous" and "caller to a radio show?" The ABC article you link to yourself has half the accusers named (so most are not anonymous) and the 4 others all talked to print media (two to the Huffington Post, one to Jezebel, one to Politico). The print media all knew their identities (e.g, "elected official in New England" or "congressional aide"). Print media usually does fact checking even when they withhold the names, so for example from Politico:
Two former colleagues of the [Democratic staffer] independently corroborated her version of events, including Franken telling her he had the right to try to kiss her because he was “an entertainer.” The first former colleague interviewed by POLITICO said she was told of the incident in 2006, shortly after it happened. The second former co-worker said she was made aware of the encounter sometime in 2009 or 2010.
Reading your description makes it sound like it was callers to the Rush Limbaugh show with no verification. That's nonsense. This sort of thing is absolutely sufficient detail to be investigated, and it's 100% consistent with the evidence trail serial gropers leave behind them.
posted by mark k at 9:51 PM on July 22, 2019 [14 favorites]


Al Franken is responsible for Al Franken (Molly Roberts, WaPo)
Gillibrand “has a lot to answer for,” her critics intone. She’s “opportunistic.” She “cut short” the sterling career of a party star. Efforts are mounting to hamstring her campaign for president, which admittedly didn’t really seem to have the longest legs in the first place.

Gillibrand has a perfectly logical explanation for her actions amid this perfectly illogical onslaught: “He wasn’t entitled to me carrying his water, and defending him with my silence.” But plenty of people seem to think that’s exactly what Franken was entitled to.

Mayer’s story reads as if it’s laying out an abundance of exculpatory evidence that Franken was never allowed to present because he was pressured out of office before he could get a hearing. It also reads as though it’s exposing a coordinated campaign by the vast right-wing conspiracy to bring down one of the opposing party’s beloved. But neither of these is true.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:59 PM on July 22, 2019 [19 favorites]


I just read the Dupuy piece. She says she approached Franken at a party and he squeezed her waist twice quickly during a photo shoot. She says this was obviously maliciously intended to make her feel small. She says she doesn't let her husband do this, because it demeans her professional womanhood. She then points out that Franken once drew a picture of horns on one of Tweeden's photos during a comedy tour, which is clear evidence of his classic pattern of sexual harassment, where he turns beautiful women into bitches.

I don't know what to say. I read parts of this story almost as an act of bullying in and of itself. If Franken squeezed her he shouldn't have. He should apologize deeply and aim to be a better person, but in this article Dupuy makes claims as to his motivations she can't possibly defend. She does not know what was in Franken's head. She cannot know him to be a serial monster because of some drawing he made. These are some pretty vicious allegations as to his inner character.

I tend towards forgiveness of bad behavior, especially if I don't believe it was because of bad behavior, but I recognize that in society this has become a part of the problem. Men who behave inappropriately face no consequences for their actions, because socially we let them off the hook. We need to change if we're going to get better. While I'm not sure I agree with Dupuy's characterization of Franken, her account of his actions rings true. I'll do my best to learn from this thread, and take that with me.
posted by xammerboy at 11:41 PM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


But neither of these is true.

The article makes a strong case that the original accusation was effectively false & was a co-ordinated campaign targetting Franken that originated in the right-wing media. They took a photo were Franken was acting out a tiny part of a skit meant to make him look like a bumbling fool & turned it into a story of persistent workplace sexual abuse. None of this story holds up & the author of the piece has done the work to show that.

At the same there’s no evidence that the women who came forward subsequently were part of that co-ordinated campaign - it seems clear that Franken had a history of being inappropriately physical with pretty much everyone & that expressed itself in ways that made some women uncomfortable.

The combination of these stories made Franken out to be a sexual assault monster roaming around Washington getting handsy with every women he met & it’s this image that I think people felt was so grossly unfair & out of line with their personal experience of being with him for extended periods of time. This interpretation also explains why he was so completely blindsided by the accusations: in his mind none of this was ever sexual. I think this explains why people bristle at the way Franken was put in the same box as some others who were torn apart around this time.

At the same time, the women who came forward get to have their say too - Franken /was/ physically inappropriate with them in ways that they found violating. Going around pushing yourself into people’s personal space in the way Franken clearly did all the time is a habit that was probably going to blow up in his face at some point & going around blithely ignoring that reality is on him. He created the tools of his own demise.
posted by pharm at 11:44 PM on July 22, 2019 [17 favorites]


Xammerboy, where are you getting "mostly anonymous" and "caller to a radio show?" The ABC article you link to yourself has half the accusers named (so most are not anonymous) and the 4 others all talked to print media.

I grouped the groper accusers as separate from Tweeden. There are seven of them, four of whom are anonymous. I think I may have gotten the radio show part wrong. That was someone's account of visiting Franken's radio show. I should have read the article more carefully.
posted by xammerboy at 11:48 PM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


(At the same time I need to use “at the same time” a bit less often...)
posted by pharm at 12:22 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think I may have gotten the radio show part wrong.

You’re in here trying to paint these women’s accusations as false and it turns out you hadn’t even read their accounts. That’s pretty telling.
posted by sallybrown at 3:35 AM on July 23, 2019 [20 favorites]


She says she approached Franken at a party and he squeezed her waist twice quickly during a photo shoot. She says this was obviously maliciously intended to make her feel small.
.... Dupuy makes claims as to his motivations she can't possibly defend. She does not know what was in Franken's head. .... These are some pretty vicious allegations as to his inner character.

This is like when people say, "That's racist!" but other people come out of the woodwork claiming, "You can't know that! Their heart is pure, all their friends think they are nice!"

It doesn't matter what a groper's explicitly admitted intentions are. I mean, neither would a rapist willingly admit that their crime is about power and not sex. But groping is about making women feel small just as rape is a crime of power. The list of small, everyday little things that men do to women to strip women of power without ever being conscious of it is already very long. Groping is not on that list. Groping is neither small nor unintentional.
posted by MiraK at 3:37 AM on July 23, 2019 [13 favorites]


For the next guy who’d like to think the women Al Franken groped were anonymous radio show callers somehow implanted with false memories. Here are the stories of the other seven accusers, from Time
Lindsay Menz: “Menz told CNN that Franken grabbed her behind during a photo op at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Franken was serving as a U.S. Senator at the time of the alleged incident. She said that she had a cordial conversation with Franken, and then her husband took a photo of the two. Menz alleged that Franken ‘put his hand full-fledged on my rear… It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek.’”

Stephanie Kemplin: “Kemplin, an Army veteran, told CNN in a story published on Thursday that Franken allegedly groped her in December 2003. She said she was stationed in Kuwait, and she met Franken when he toured with the USO. She said that Franken groped her right breast while the two took a photo. “I remember clenching up and how you just feel yourself flushed,” she told CNN. “And I remember thinking — is he going to move his hand? Was it an accident? Was he going to move his hand? He never moved his hand.”

A former Democratic congressional aide: “The unnamed woman told Politico that Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after the taping of his radio show in 2006 when she was in her mid-20s. She said that the alleged incident occurred once her boss had left the room. When she tried to leave the room, Franken allegedly told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.’”

Two unnamed women: “Two anonymous women told the Huffington Post that Franken touched their behinds in two separate incidents. The first woman alleged that Franken groped her while they took a photo together at a June 2007 event hosted by the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus. At the time of the alleged incident, Franken was running for the U.S. Senate. The second woman claimed that Franken grabbed her behind in 2008 at a Democratic fundraiser. She said that Franken then suggested that the two go to the bathroom together.”

An unnamed elected official in New England: “The woman told Jezebel that Franken attempted to give her a “wet, open-mouthed kiss” in 2006 at a live taping of Franken’s show at the time, Air America. “I was stunned and incredulous. I felt demeaned. I felt put in my place,” she told Jezebel about the alleged incident.”

Tina Dupuy: “In an essay for the Atlantic, Dupuy alleged that Franken groped her at a Media Matters party during President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. “He immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh. I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice,” Dupuy wrote. “Al Franken’s familiarity was inappropriate and unwanted. It was also quick; he knew exactly what he was doing.”
And for your information, xammerboy, gross men grope women in public under the guise of a hug or “just taking a picture” all the damn time, and no one can tell. That’s just one of the many errors in your copious posts in this thread, which also make it seem like you didn’t even read the other comments before you rode in to defend Poor Al Franken.
posted by sallybrown at 3:52 AM on July 23, 2019 [23 favorites]


Xammerboy, please stop. Please stop.

Groping is not intellectual hay for you to regurgitate and chew over and over in public.
posted by Laetiporus at 3:57 AM on July 23, 2019 [10 favorites]


I assume that there are other women who haven't come forward, actually. It seems unlikely to me that Franken did this seven times over many years when he clearly had a modus operandi.

Something that's frustrating in re petty sexual harassment: A lot of men (and women who don't experience it, of whom there are some) don't understand how covert and invisible it is, and how it's often calculated to be just bad enough to hurt but not bad enough that you'll, eg, call the cops and the papers.

When I was a young person who wore dresses, there was a guy behind me in line for the bus who literally grabbed my ass as I stepped up into the bus. I was all "excuse me" and he said "whoops, I'm disabled, I just fell" so I continued to get on the bus...and he did it again. (Reader, it was obvious that he didn't "just fall".) I stopped and told him that he could get on ahead of me and he snarled about how I was such a bitch and he was "just disabled" and had "lost his balance". I got on that bus after him and that was the end of that - what was I going to do? It was my word against his that he was grabbing me rather than "disabled", I had to get to work and I was really kind of in shock that this had happened to me right there in public and everything.

I mean, it wasn't that bad. It wasn't that visible. But that guy was probably doing the same thing to women all the time, causing them stress and humiliation that they were absolutely powerless to prevent short of punching him. (I think some of those big hat pins from the turn of the century would be useful, then I could have cried "masher!" and stabbed him.)

The guy obviously wasn't going to do anything dramatic because if he did something dramatic he'd get thrown off the bus or get the cops called. He did exactly as much as he could get away with and I've never forgotten it. Even now I sometimes second-guess myself - it's not like even at twenty five and feminine I was a raving beauty, how dare I assume that some poor disabled guy intentionally grabbed my ass twice in about ninety seconds?

Sexual harassment of this nature kind of breaks our usual systems. It's designed to exploit them, in fact - to be just under the radar enough that women (and AFAB people) are not willing to take the risk and effort of addressing it publicly. So the whole "why isn't there due process" bit is really not helpful. I mean, sure, it would be great if we had a "due process" designed to deal with this type of situation, but right now it's a bit like saying in 1850 that someone who adulterates food should get "due process" when there's few if any food safety laws.
posted by Frowner at 4:19 AM on July 23, 2019 [31 favorites]


I am so tired of people fully seeing and describing groping in plain english but as if to say groping is no big deal, come on, can't you women deal with that piddling thing? This is pure unadulterated rape culture.

My mom did exactly the same thing every time I told her about getting sexually assaulted on the streets. "Oh, he just stuck a finger in the fleshy part of your butt as he walked by? Okay. Okay. Phew." Even as a 12 year old, I got the idea right quick. This shit is NBD. Shut up about this shit already. I stopped telling her.

My rapist did exactly the same thing with rape, too. "Come on, I just tried to persuade you and show you how nice it can be, I was so sure you were gonna like it. And I totally stopped and hugged you when you started crying. Don't try to make me out to be some kind of monster!" He had been ... well, let's call it 'temporarily ignoring' my NOs for years, and because of how sweet and nonthreatening he was, I thought he was right. I thought it was NBD. I shut up about it.

Folks who speak of groping as being harmless, what is your goal? No, seriously. What. Is. Your. Goal?
posted by MiraK at 4:33 AM on July 23, 2019 [19 favorites]


For the record, Tina Smith has spoken out, eloquently, against Mitch McConnell, won her re-election by a greater margin than Franken won his, and in general is not "just concerned with insulin." I mean, she's not a flashy, mouthy star loaded with quotable quips, but she seems to be quietly getting her job done. Like Patty Murray, Catherine Cortez Masto and others who some seem to think are "morons" (and can we not use ableist language?).

"Tina Smith is a zero" is absolute sexist bullshit. Remember when Dick Painter tried to challenge her and she curb-stomped his worthless ass? Yeah. A real "zero." She's more in tune with the Midwestern ethos of "quietly do your job" and people in Minnesota seem to appreciate that.

Senators aren't supposed to be celebrities and stars. They're public servants doing their jobs. They're not elected on the strength of their wit and quotable quips; they're hired, or rather elected, because they have lawmaking and political skills (notice how many congresspeople are or were lawyers?). If we had a congress made up of Tina Smiths, Patty Murrays, Catherine Cortez Mastos, Elizabeth Warrens, and so on, I'd be very happy. To think that Franken was some sort of priceless national treasure is ridiculous. We have a vast talent pool, many if not most of whom are women and POC. We don't need white men, no matter how witty and eloquent, if they aren't willing to respect other people.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:11 AM on July 23, 2019 [29 favorites]


And another thing I've noticed, not on Metafilter (or LawyersGunsMoney for that matter), but on other progressive sites, is people saying, "Why do WE go after Our Own (tm) when the Republicans do all sorts of bad things and still get elected? Why didn't Meanie Kirsten Gillibrand ask Trump to resign? Why don't WE get a mulligan?" So if Democrats don't shame or strong-arm Republicans into cleaning up their act, it...doesn't matter? There's no point in keeping our noses clean if Republicans don't do the same?

The point of cleaning your house isn't to shame your neighbors into cleaning theirs, it's so YOU don't have to live in filth. YOU don't want a cockroach infestation. YOU want to come home to a clean environment. Same with the Democratic party. The point is to make our party a welcoming big tent for all our constituents. The Democrats are the big tent party. We treat people well and respect diversity because that's the way we want our party to be. See the blue wave of 2018 which included a historical number of intersectional candidates? See the Squad in the House, who are all women of color? See the diverse candidates running for President on the Democratic side? Think of all we'd lose if we just gave unlimited "mulligans" to bad behavior.

tl;dr: cleaning house is a good thing in and of itself, and just because Republicans jump off a bridge doesn't mean we have to.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:57 AM on July 23, 2019 [24 favorites]


gross men grope women in public under the guise of a hug or “just taking a picture” all the damn time, and no one can tell.

This. I’ve been groped by celebrity men taking pictures, in public, and I can’t even tell you who right now except for the SF authors because those are the ones who felt like a betrayal. Because that shit was super common for so fucking long, if you were a moderately pretty woman dudes would cop a feel.

It was always wrong and gross and shitty, we just tolerated that crap more back then, and we should not have. And it absolutely led to more rape. Women of my generation were raped far more frequently than women of my daughter’s generation are, and I don’t think that’s an accident.
posted by corb at 6:03 AM on July 23, 2019 [12 favorites]


xammerboy:abc news link Thanks for the link. It's a shame Franken didn't stay and have an investigation.
posted by theora55 at 6:31 AM on July 23, 2019


Ignoring Tweeden, who may or may not have cooperated in a targeted political hit, the takeaway for me is that Franken needed to learn to take personal space and physical boundaries much more seriously. I don't care if he came from a family of lip-kissing, rybalt vaudevillians, not everybody wants to be lip kissed (or even hugged).

It's not hard to give people a heads up so they can consent-- it doesn't need to look like robotically negotiating a federally mandated touching contract. "I'm a hugger" or "in my family we kiss everybody on the lips" will do (as long as you take a beat to see how the person responds).

Did he deserve to lose his Senate seat for his mistakes? I don't think so. However, his inability to respond quickly and compassionately were damning. If somebody told me I made them uncomfortable, I'd be horrified and apologize profusely, including a promise to change my habits. I wouldn't launch an investigation.

Franken could have saved his career and his rep if he'd just had remorse and shame. Instead he's still going on about what a Nice Guy TM he is, and how his career ended because he was misunderstood while saying, "Thank you." Dude, your career ended because you were incapable of saying, sorry, in a way that actually conveyed remorse and understanding of your problem. That's why I don't respect him, and wouldn't want him as my senator if I lived in Minnesota. He's not some monster; he's just another powerful man incapable of normal human shame and remorse. We don't need any more such men in government, whether or not they push good policy.
posted by a_curious_koala at 6:44 AM on July 23, 2019 [11 favorites]


I am genuinely curious...is there really a place in the U.S. where it’s viewed as culturally normal to kiss a stranger on the lips? My family is not very physically affectionate, so maybe my perception is off. The only people I’ve ever kissed on the lips were men I was romantically involved with. If a total stranger, even a celebrity (someone known to me, if not known by me), kissed me on the lips, he would get a strong push to get the hell away from me.
posted by sallybrown at 6:54 AM on July 23, 2019 [11 favorites]


What's the end game here? It seems unlikely that Franken would be nominated to run for anything again. Would he try to go back to doing a radio talk show?
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:55 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


One more thing that I feel like I bring up in every thread about sexual harassment, and then I’ll step away so as not to swamp this thread: if Franken’s behavior was purely platonic, why wasn’t he kissing men on the lips or cupping men’s butts when taking pictures?
posted by sallybrown at 6:57 AM on July 23, 2019 [28 favorites]


^^ Yes, that. Even Quentin Tarantino knows the principle of it well enough: "Would you give a guy a foot massage?"
posted by MiraK at 7:05 AM on July 23, 2019 [6 favorites]


I mean, I definitely know Americans that do the double cheek kiss close to the edge of the lips and it's entirely possible to misjudge the distance, but in reality the 'kiss' doesn't have lips touching as much as getting close and making a smacking sound.

Also I'd still be startled if a random white American did it to me, and I've never initiated it since it's not the sort of thing you expect from a white Minnesotan of Jewish extraction. Which seems to be more pertinent in this case.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:06 AM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


I mean, fucking hell. We're midwesterners: we hug with at least a foot of distance between the two torsos. Even if that's not his norm, that's who his constituents are, and he probably should have learned the basics of how to make people feel comfortable with him taking a picture.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:13 AM on July 23, 2019 [7 favorites]


The article makes a strong case that the original accusation was effectively false & was a co-ordinated campaign targetting Franken that originated in the right-wing media. They took a photo were Franken was acting out a tiny part of a skit meant to make him look like a bumbling fool & turned it into a story of persistent workplace sexual abuse. None of this story holds up & the author of the piece has done the work to show that.

It does not. It shows that the original accusation was essentially correct and spends a lot of time on ancillary details to make Tweeden look insincere ("Oh, he didn't actually write the bit for her. Look, he might have stuck his tongue in her throat but not in these other women's. He made Tweeden uncomfortable in rehearsal but rehearsals are normal! Sure, he did the stuff in the photo but Tweeden should have made clear it wasn't that bad because he did it on stage too.")

Personally at the time, when I thought it was just Tweeden, I thought it was possible the story was exaggerated or out of context. But I have a fairly simple #MeToo rule: If an accusation is true it is likely to be followed by more accusations. The picture of Franken is 100% the kind of guy who would do that sophomoric, disrespectful stuff for years. So if Tweeden made it up she got really lucky that it was consistent with other things.

Heck, as Molly Roberts in the article linked above points out, even the stuff about his staff worrying over his "clumsy" and clueless physicality is basically confirming he was doing stuff that worried his staff all these years.

There remains the fact that this is way less than anything Trump or Weinstein demonstrably did. This is true and maybe he could've toughed it out in the Senate. Politically I think that's what Republicans would've preferred--Tweeden said she didn't want him expelled. And having a groper question Kavanaugh, or Democrats try to explain why grabbing the ass is bad but not as bad as grabbing the crotch is a sort of nuance I don't think it was worth spending capital on.
posted by mark k at 7:20 AM on July 23, 2019 [16 favorites]


LGM's Paul Campos argues that Mayer got tripped up by the nature of her story:
The first is the tendency to make something more of a story than it really is because you’ve put so much time and effort into it. Mayer’s investigations reveal that Tweeden’s accusations were sketchy in various ways, but that there seems to be no reason to seriously doubt the other seven accusers, and that there’s no evidence of any sort of co-ordinated GOP campaign.

The problem with that conclusion is that it hardly qualifies as news. I mean that’s exactly what I would have expected a deep dive into the evidence to reveal. But understandably Mayer wants to frame her confirmation of that predictable story arc as a significant revelation/expose.

It really isn’t.

The second is made up of the many powerful incentives to focus on a subject for reasons that have no justification beyond the purely pragmatic and commercial judgment that people want to read about it.

The Al Franken story gets 12,000 words in the New Yorker because its subject is Al Franken, former SNL star and beloved figure among the donor class, rather than former Sen. Joe Smith from Flyover who Nobody Who Matters has ever even really heard of.

There’s an insidious synergy between these two factors of course: It’s a lot easier to make a mountain out of a molehill if the molehill has a celebrity on top of it.

Yet a third factor is that, as a stand-alone piece, Mayer’s story can be read as a sympathetic-towards-its subject yet ultimately descriptive, rather than normative, comment on that subject’s relation to a particular social moment. But again, the imperatives of the genre more or less require a kind of social media meta-framing in which the story is an expose of the grave injustice done to Al Franken, even though Mayer’s own story doesn’t really support that framing. (I.E. why am I supposed to read 12,000 words about this guy again?).
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:16 AM on July 23, 2019 [6 favorites]




I found this question on Weingarten's post significant: But how do you become an actor - especially doing live sketch comedy - and not learn to have control of your body? Franken can choose to keep his arms at his side and his mouth closed when he's on stage; why can't he choose to do that in other facets of life?

Seriously - Hugh Laurie started out as a comedian and wound up giving one of the finest performances of his career in House, a non-comedic role. Bill Murray and Robin Williams also turned in great performances in straight roles. To be a great comic actor requires timing and body awareness, which these actors had. So, either Franken was a lousy comic actor or his "I'm just a lovable oaf! Har har! Clumsy ol' me!" act was an act and he could damn well rein it in when he wanted.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:36 AM on July 23, 2019 [11 favorites]


[One deleted. xammerboy, people have made a number of points above about "unintentional" groping and the specific accounts of the accusers; at this point just reiterating general skepticism is only going to lead to bad places. Please just skip it. And other commenters, let's please keep the focus on the general points etc rather than on anything about xammerboy specifically given I'm asking him to step back.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:46 AM on July 23, 2019 [7 favorites]


The combination of these stories made Franken out to be a sexual assault monster roaming around Washington getting handsy with every women he met & it’s this image that I think people felt was so grossly unfair & out of line with their personal experience of being with him for extended periods of time.

I don't think that's the takeaway any reasonable person had from these accounts when they happened.

Franken /was/ physically inappropriate with them in ways that they found violating.

I think THIS was the takeaway any reasonable person had from these accounts when they happened (although I'd say that he WAS violating because his intention doesn't matter at all in this case)

He still should have stepped down.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 10:59 AM on July 23, 2019


Sexual harassment of this nature kind of breaks our usual systems. It's designed to exploit them

OMG quoted for truth. I have also been publicly groped. It was in broad daylight, while I was walking with friends and my husband, as we crossed a busy intersection. I was groped by an old man who grabbed my crotch, to paraphrase Samantha Bee, like a bowling ball.

And when I said something, you'd think that my ex and all my friends had just lost their brains. "What?" "Are you sure?" "huh?" "well.... like... what do you want me to do?"

I was horrified and felt punched in the stomach by my obvious lack of privacy and bodily integrity, and then felt punched in the stomach again, when my friends and loved one felt comfortable enough to just keep walking and smooth everything over and continue on like it was NBD. Because well hey, it wasn't that visible. It wasn't that bad. It was just an old man. etc. etc.

Men know what they're doing. Franken knew what he was doing. If they don't: screw them. My feelings matter. Our feelings matter. I'm so tired of this.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:12 AM on July 23, 2019 [14 favorites]


My guy got us tandem skydiving jumps once as a surprise, and I was excited as hell. We got there the day of and were assigned our jumpers. He got a young white dude, I got an older white dude. At some point in the training, my dude said to me something like, "When we have the chute open and we're comfy, I'll loosen the straps a little bit so that you can feel more free." "Okay," I said.

So we went up in the rickety plane and because I am ADHD as anything, I was calm and in my moment and so happy to be up there. We bombed out the door first, me and the old guy, and I played my part well and fully enjoyed the weightlessness. He showed me his altimeter, I pulled the chute, everything went to plan and there we were, thousands of feet above the earth just steering around and looking at a huge lake and mountains. It was beautiful.

Then came whatever unstrapping bullshit he was talking about, which instead seemed to consist of him just groping around on my breasts, grabbing one and then the other, ostensibly trying to locate this mysterious thing to loosen, which was right in the middle of my chest.

You can imagine this went a long way toward ruining my first skydiving experience. Now I've got a lech strapped behind me with absolutely no way to get away without, you know, plunging to my death. I spent the rest of the fall waiting to feel his dick up on me, which luckily did not happen.

But he had said he would loosen the strap! I had no idea what he meant, so I said okay! That could have been consent at the most surface level! It was the most inescapable and least public and most plausibly deniable groping. Afterward, I was too busy thanking my guy for thinking to get me that cool surprise and feeling exhausted from the adrenaline bursts (both from jumping and from anger) and too much wondering if he really was just fumbly. I didn't report him. I did ask my guy later if his partner unstrapped anything on the way down and he said, "What? No."

The moral to this story of privilege is that women gotta put up with this shit in everyday circumstances and extraordinary ones. We can meet a hero and not know whether he's gonna be great and interesting or if he's just gonna see us as a joke, as some thing he can do stupid stuff to. I'm glad Franken's out, as I was then. He can keep it on groping and mouth-open chewing and getting-in-the-way fronts.
posted by lauranesson at 11:35 AM on July 23, 2019 [28 favorites]


OMG, lauranesson. WTF? That gives me chills on multiple levels. Did you ever tell your guy who gifted you? Might be an exercise in frustration or might be cathartic to have him hear you out.

Your response is exactly what I would do in your same shoes. Here's the thing, having sex or sexiness or intimate touching suddenly show up in random contexts where it certainly is not expected is disorienting, confusing, boundary pushing and socially transgressive. It's sometimes only clear in retrospect, when the adrenaline, confusion, weird feelings and social conditioning subside that we can see the whole picture. And then...the whole world just wants to move on. To protect the herd and protect our revered male leaders, the people must put their heads down and move on.

That guy had a well-honed, premeditated plan. W.T.F.?
posted by amanda at 11:50 AM on July 23, 2019 [13 favorites]


Oh, amanda! Your second paragraph, thank you. That's exactly what I was trying to explain but not quite getting there. Like, the women that met Franken, they were already having a day at the fair, or at a political meeting, or getting to hang with cool celebrities on the base or whatever, and things were already heightened. Then they have a chance to meet this dude they've seen on TV a zillion times, who really sticks it to people who deserve it sometimes. It's exciting. Spirits are high. Then he just plants his hand somewhere it really really it shouldn't be, and you're all hyped up and then just ... this guy you respect sees you as a joke. As a thing or a collection of squishy shapes or something.

The excitement deflates, you deflate, you again are just seen as A Thing a Dude Can Do Stuff At/To. You feel like shit. Again. And what happened was so small in the vast whatever of creation that it's hardly worth complaining about. Except that this one particular time, you were extra hyped to get to do/meet something/someone cool. Your hopes are way up and then someone disconnects the parachute.

Anyway, yeah, after we took an adrenaline-depletion nap, I told my guy that same day what happened, and he was mad about it at an appropriate level (i.e. not a jealous, "But you are my property," way and more a, "Wow, that should have been such a cool time and that guy fucked it up and I got your back," way) and asked if I wanted help drafting an email or phone call. I decided to leave it. Back then, I wanted to erase the gropy bit and just try to remember the steering and floating. But this was before MeToo, which really did make a lot of things clearer. Especially in the fact that I am far from the only one who deals with this nonsense.
posted by lauranesson at 12:30 PM on July 23, 2019 [14 favorites]


Last year, I attended a protest for immigrants rights at our local detention center. The trains were jammed on the way home, and some dude - a left-leaning, liberal, obviously do-gooding dude, as he has just spent a significant amount of time protesting - took advantage of that to grab, grope, and twist, first my waist, then my hip, then my butt.

As jammed as we were in there, I have no idea who it was, other than it was definitely a man's hand and wrist. I couldn't see him. I couldn't confront him to his face. I couldn't take a picture of him. So, I did the only thing I could think of. I used my voice, and said - LOUDLY - "Would whoever has his hand on my hip please remove it NOW?"

The hand was snatched away as if I'd burned him. But he didn't say he was sorry - whoever he was. And the people around me didn't ask if I was okay, either. Just another day, another body to grope.

It also really struck me that this guy was all about freedom and autonomy for the immigrants locked up in that detention center - which is great - but it didn't occur to him that his fellow protestors also deserve to be free.
posted by dancing_angel at 1:28 PM on July 23, 2019 [17 favorites]


if Franken’s behavior was purely platonic, why wasn’t he kissing men on the lips or cupping men’s butts when taking pictures?

This. Like - I actually know men and women who are kissers, though it's mostly cheek-kissing. But men and women who kiss, do so with both men and women. I suspect it's much more that he got away with being ribald and kind of "dirty old man" because Comedy and just felt he could keep getting away with it.
posted by corb at 2:42 PM on July 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


Senators aren't supposed to be celebrities and stars. They're public servants doing their jobs.

Would that I had more favorites to give. I'm pissed that I have to give a shit about what idiots Kentucky and Utah and Texas in particular keep sending to congress to the point that I know their names. If they weren't reprehensible grandstanding hateful fuckwits I would never have to know, they'd just be that congressperson from [other place] presumably looking out for the best interest of their constituents.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:41 PM on July 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


I remember Dahlia Lithwick's article just before Franken resigned, and thinking its points are better articulations than my own thoughts on it.

But I did think Franken had a (rare, if not unique) ability to frame issues and tap into what people would find compelling. While he was frustratingly quiet in his first term, after re-election he spoke more freely, to pretty great effect. He could counterspin points, exposing them plainly and simply as bad faith arguments not worth considering, which is a useful talent. I don't think Franken is gearing up for a new election.

Honestly, I expected a GOP response along the lines of Shirley Sherrod's termination based on lies put forward by Fox News, where they can orchestrate outrage, unfair firing (which they called for) and then REAMING then President Obama for being such a dupe. That was a win-win-win for them. I still wouldn't rule out a similar framing by misogynists who cry about unfair accusations for sexual predators.

But obviously he was allegedly serially groping women. His knee-jerk reaction to ask for an investigation was good. The avalanche of other accusations was awful and damning. His resignation had two effects: doing what was right for his constituents, and freezing the accusations in amber as true, because no one is going to investigate it further. The weight Jane Mayer placed on the first accusation seems disproportionate. I wish that they had been researched as thoroughly.
posted by Busithoth at 9:47 AM on July 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


Anna Merlan: The New Yorker Seriously Mischaracterized the Story of One of Al Franken's Accusers
In the end, though, the magazine decided their version of events was accurate. (Their full statement is at the bottom of this post.) The New Yorker and Mayer also insist that they were fine to imply in their piece I only had one corroborating source, when there were two. Raabe told me on Wednesday that they are “reviewing” my request for a correction: “This situation is also a bit unusual because you are simultaneously asking for a correction while planning to write about our story.” (It’s not at all unusual to request a correction, nor is it unusual to write about the mistakes or mischaracterizations of another media outlet, particularly when they concern our own work.)

The woman’s story is ultimately a small part of the New Yorker’s piece, but considering that it contains inaccurate, reductive and misleading information, it also feels concerning. It raises questions about what else might be glossed over, mischaracterized, or misleading.

The piece suggests that Franken’s only offense was clumsiness, and perhaps naiveté. Mayer and Franken have both made it clear enough that they believe the former senator has been falsely condemned, and while they’re welcome to try to push that concept using barrels of ink and space in one of the most prestigious magazines in the country, they’re not free to use misrepresentations of other journalists’ work to do it. On Twitter, Mayer has implied she’s the only person who truly interrogated Franken’s accusers’ stories, writing, “Sometimes the first draft of history is wrong - especially when no one fact checks it.”

For her part, the woman says she’s still baffled as to why the magazine decided this was worthy of such an extensive — and, she argues, misleading —rehashing.

“There are so may stories that need to be told right now,” she told me recently. “To devote 14,000 words in the service of discrediting women — why?”
posted by zombieflanders at 9:54 AM on July 26, 2019 [7 favorites]


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