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Sen. Al Franken accused of sexual assault, harassment by radio host

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The desire for an investigation — along with a general sense of sadness and disappointment at Franken’s actions — was shared by nearly all of Minnesota’s Democratic members of Congress.

On Thursday, Sen. Al Franken was accused of sexual assault: Leeann Tweeden, a radio host and former model, revealed in an article that Franken groped her and kissed her without her consent while the two were part of a USO tour through the Middle East in 2006.

According to Tweeden, one night she and Franken were set to perform a skit in front of troops in which Franken’s character would kiss her. She alleges that backstage, Franken — who was not yet a candidate for U.S. Senate in Minnesota — repeatedly insisted on “rehearsing” the kiss with her, and, ultimately, forcibly kissed her.

Tweeden goes on to detail a later incident — captured on camera — in which Franken, flashing a smile, appears to grope her breasts while she was asleep on the military plane home to the U.S.

Her story comes in the wake of sexual assault and misconduct allegations that have rocked the fields of entertainment, media, and politics. To this point, Congress and statehouses around the country have engaged in an unprecedented conversation about sexual assault and harassment in politics, but Franken is the first sitting member of Congress to be accused of assault by name.

Franken, a progressive Democrat, has been seen as an ally of women, and had condemned men like Harvey Weinstein who had been revealed as serial sexual assaulters and harassers in past months.

Tweeden’s story has put Franken’s future in the U.S. Senate in doubt, as key congressional leaders on both sides — and Franken himself — agreed on Thursday to an investigation into his conduct by the Senate Ethics Committee.

The news has also forced Democrats and Republicans alike to carefully consider their responses, in light of recent harassment and assault stories that have afflicted both parties, from the Minnesota State Capitol to the Alabama U.S. Senate race.

A series of apologies

An hour after Tweeden’s story was posted on the website of KABC 790, the Los Angeles talk radio station where she works, Franken released his first public statement. “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” he said. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

This statement was roundly criticized on social media, and by midday, the Minnesota Republican Party was calling on Franken to resign his Senate seat, and several prominent Democrats had advocated for an investigation into Franken by the Ethics Committee.

Franken then issued a lengthier statement, which began with a broad apology to Tweeden, and to his supporters.

“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t,” he said. “And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.” (Franken again asserted, however, that he does not “remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does.”)

Franken said he asked for an ethics investigation in the Senate. “I will gladly cooperate,” he said. 

The desire for an investigation — along with a general sense of sadness and disappointment at Franken’s actions — was shared by nearly all of Minnesota’s Democratic members of Congress. Sen. Amy Klobuchar condemned Franken’s behavior, saying “this should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden … the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation.”

First District Rep. Tim Walz, a DFL candidate for governor, said he was “deeply disappointed.”

“These are serious allegations,” Walz told MinnPost, “and it’s hard for me to watch this. When others have done this, it’s hard to watch them be able to serve, because you lose credibility.”

“The ethics investigation is the least we can do in this situation,” Walz said. He did not say whether he believed Franken should resign his seat, but he said, “I think you have to consider that.”

Reps. Keith Ellison, Rick Nolan, and Betty McCollum all weighed in, expressing their disappointment and disapproval of Franken’s actions. McCollum and Nolan specifically called for the ethics investigation.

“I’m glad to hear Sen. Franken is cooperating,” Nolan told MinnPost, but said it was “premature” to think about Franken resigning. He said the press should look into Tweeden’s allegation and that the process should “run its course.”

Seventh District Rep. Collin Peterson said he wanted to learn more and that it’s up to the Senate to decide how to proceed.

Political implications

Reactions to the Franken news varied on the Republican side. The Republican Party of Minnesota swiftly called for his resignation, but Republican members of Congress were more circumspect.

Second District Rep. Jason Lewis called the allegations against Franken — which MinnPost described to him for the first time — “disconcerting,” but said he wanted to learn more. “I don’t like to rush to judgment for anyone,” he said.

Sixth District Rep. Tom Emmer said in a statement that “standing up for victims and against harassment and assault is not a partisan issue and I support investigations into any claims against elected officials.” (At press time, Rep. Erik Paulsen’s office had not responded to a request for comment.)

On Thursday, Walz was the only Minnesota Democratic congressman to publicly entertain the idea of Franken resigning — though that prospect is on the minds of Democrats around the state.

If Franken were to step down — and there is no indication that he will — Gov. Mark Dayton would be able to appoint an interim senator. There would then be a special election for the seat on Election Day 2018, when Minnesota’s eight U.S. House members and Klobuchar are all up for re-election. Franken himself is up for re-election in 2020.

Unless more allegations against Franken come out, many DFLers do not expect Franken to resign. A Senate investigation could result in Franken being officially censured, which is a formal statement of condemnation on behalf of the institution. It is a rare punishment — carried out nine times in Senate history — and it is less severe than expulsion, but the Senate website says it can “have a powerful psychological effect on a member and his/her relationships in the Senate.”

The last U.S. senator to be formally censured was former Sen. David Durenberger, a Minnesota Republican, who was condemned by the body in 1990 — by a vote of 96 to 0 — for improper and unethical financial dealings. He did not run for re-election.

The political implications of Tweeden’s allegation will reverberate in both the short and long term. If Franken runs for re-election in 2020, several DFL operatives envisioned an attack campaign in which the photo of Franken appearing to grope Tweeden is featured in mailers and TV ads statewide.

Some Republicans are also calling on Democratic candidates who have received campaign cash from Franken to return it, and to decline support from him in the future. Over the years, Franken — through his personal political action committee, Midwest Values PAC — has contributed millions of dollars to Democratic candidates around the country.

Each Democrat in the Minnesota delegation has received generous contributions from Franken’s PAC. This election cycle, both Ellison and McCollum received $10,000 and $5,000 from Franken, respectively; in 2016, all Democratic members of the Minnesota delegation received anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 in donations.

Angie Craig, who is running for the DFL endorsement in the 2nd Congressional District, said on Thursday afternoon that she would be returning $15,000 in campaign contributions she has received from Franken.

Comments (57)

  1. Submitted by John Edwards on 11/16/2017 - 05:08 pm.

    Total Bewilderment

    How can MinnPost, which—when seeking donations—describes itself as offering “high-quality . . . . nonpartisan . . . journalism” not run the actual horrific photo of the smirking Senator Franken reaching out to grab the victim’s breasts. It is the best photographic evidence ever presented in one of these cases. MinnPost, why do we see only a photo of the hypocritical perpetrator?

    • Submitted by Dave Paulson on 11/17/2017 - 08:00 pm.

      Horrific photo ?

      If they had run it, we could all see it was a mugging for the camera shot – fraternity level prank. Funny only if you are drunk or have been cooped up with a group of people for days and everyone gets goofy.

      And if you have a connection to the internet you can see the picture in 15 seconds.

      It is only horrific if you start out looking for horror.
      The picture has been in at least 2 peoples possession for 11 years now.

      The forced kiss through manipulating a skit rehearsal story is more disgusting – but it is a 11 year old memory that ends up with a forced kiss. More important – it represents the same level of abuse that the least offended Trump accuser has claimed (the Miss USA Pageant contestant – and there Trump had power over her while he committed it. Franken clearly did not based on the victims own story: “I told him if he ever….”

      So put it in perspective.

      • Submitted by Sue Terhune on 11/19/2017 - 09:16 am.

        Horrific Photo.

        Gotta disagree on this one. Sexual harassment and assault is about power and vulnerability. Franken was AWAKE and she was ASLEEP (without even the option of slapping him). This picture is horrific.

  2. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 11/16/2017 - 09:29 pm.

    People in glass houses…

    …shouldn’t throw stones.

  3. Submitted by Mike Tierney on 11/16/2017 - 09:39 pm.


    I am surprised that the most convincing and damning evidence of this sexual assault is entirely ignored in your story. Where is the photo showing Senator Franken grasping both of the sleeping victims breasts?

    • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 11/17/2017 - 09:19 am.

      Damning evidence?

      Why do news outlets and other commenters keep lying to people’s faces about the picture?

      You used the word ‘grasping’. I’ve seen ‘groping’, ‘touching’, etc.

      The picture shows no such thing. I feel like I’m living in the Upside Down.

      • Submitted by Mike Tierney on 11/17/2017 - 12:39 pm.

        Gripping photo

        Gripping, cupping, holding, feeling. By why no photos in the story. If you wrote a story about the Hindenburg disaster or the Viet Cong being shot in the head isn’t the photo the story? In the “gripping ” story isn’t the photo the actual story? Why leave the story out of the story?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/17/2017 - 09:35 am.


      If MinnPost is supposed to be unbiased, why is it there role to display “the most convincing and damning evidence of this sexual assault?”

      • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 11/17/2017 - 10:14 am.

        A picture is worth 1,000 words….

        The picture is call “evidence”…. It gives reference and context to the claims made in the story.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/17/2017 - 10:27 am.


          It was asked why “the most convincing and damning evidence of this sexual assault” was not posted. That is not “context.”

        • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 11/17/2017 - 10:30 am.

          Yes…it is evidence.

          Evidence that directly contradicts her claim of what’s happening in the photo.

          Her words: “It wasn’t until I was back in the US and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one (the photo). I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep,” Tweeden writes. “I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”

          The photo: He’s not touching her at all.

          Why would she persist in this bald-faced lie?

          • Submitted by Tom Genrich on 11/17/2017 - 12:28 pm.

            Post the picture

            Right. Because modalities of expression are surely what we should be fixating on when it comes to this photo.

            In fact verbs like grasping, groping, and touching have been dulled awfully thanks to their heavy usage of late. We can do better. I’m no wordsmith, but were I to describe what was going on in the picture, I might go with something like this:

            Al Franken appears to be fiddling with the breasts of a sleeping Leeann Tweeden as if he were turning the knobs of an old time radio. Or is he pantomiming the crackerjack thief working the combination for a safe? In either event, his leer is wasted on his oblivious prop.

            No mention of grasp, grope, or touch there. Also: note the word “appears.” Is Franken actually touching the breasts of a sleeping woman? Or merely pretending to touch the breasts of a sleeping woman? Here is a distinction with a difference. The former might be regarded as a sexual assault. The latter? A harmless shenanigan that suggests the sort of objectification of women you might find in, say, a locker room. And shouldn’t we downplay these kinds of shenanigans if by downplaying them we’ll be giving Franken the opportunity to make America great again?

            Seriously. To fixate on modalities of expression by way of obscuring a perspective towards women that this photo pretty clearly represents is to engage in the sort of spin and deflection that makes Fox News a deserving target for anyone who values intellectual honesty.

            Judging by his behavior as a US Senator, I’d say that Franken has matured beyond the sort of person who thinks touching, or pretending to touch, the breasts of a sleeping woman is funny. But who he is now doesn’t change who he was. At one time he was the sort of person who thought touching, or pretending to touch, the breasts of a sleeping woman was funny. That is the story here. The picture is central to the story. If Minnpost is going to cover the story, they ought to post the picture.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/20/2017 - 09:02 am.

              In that Case . . .

              Post the other pictures that suggest the damning evidence may be a staged photo.

              It seems that civilians traveling on military planes for USO shows sit in seats that look a lot like normal airline seats. They are not in that kind of jump seat.

  4. Submitted by Bill Kahn on 11/16/2017 - 11:45 pm.

    Kind of sad. Still, a stark contrast is apparent in the way Sen. Franken dealt with this situation unlike the other public figures outed as molesters of women with whom they worked or whom they sought out for the purpose. He actually apologized and that apology was accepted by the victim of this abuse.

    If he winds up resigning, perhaps Gov. Dayton will pull a Wendell Anderson or appoint someone better (his stint in Washington was not a great one), maybe a woman, say his lieutenant governor, to help to reform Congress in this time of great turmoil under President Trump and the Republican majority at the Capitol. Reminds me of a couplet from a Shakespeare sonnet (121, “‘Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed:”

    “Unless this general evil they maintain,
    All men are bad and in their badness reign.”

    • Submitted by Gene Nelson on 11/17/2017 - 12:00 pm.

      Agree Bill

      We have faux having hissy fits over Weinstein and now Franken, but oh so silent regarding trump, Ailes, O’Reilly and kind of quiet regarding Moore…all of whom denied their behavior…but Franken admitted it and apologized.
      The hypocrisy of the right is deplorable…outraged at Franken…but not trump, moore, ailes, o’reilly…all of whose behavior was worse…far worse…with multiple offenses…but the right ignores them.

      • Submitted by Virginia Martin on 11/17/2017 - 08:56 pm.

        Sexual harassment and assault

        The behavior of Franken after it became public presents a stark contrast with every other male who has been identified. He admitted it, apologized profusely, and to the woman, he asked for an investigation into his actions. He didn’t deny or call it fake news or said he would sue her for defamation of character, or react in any of the ways that Trump, Moore, and the men so accused did (Minnesota Democrat in the house behaved in much the same way, unlike Cornish, who was notorious in the Legislature). It makes a huge. I guess all these Christian conservatives don’t believe in redemption.
        I wonder what became of those lawsuits by the 13 women against Trump. Somebody sitting on them?

        • Submitted by Mike Tierney on 11/18/2017 - 10:27 pm.

          Fessin up

          Franken “fessed up” because there is a photograph of him “cupping ” her breasts . His followers are somehow convincing themselves that he doesn’t have a handful. Actually two handfuls. Just look at the photo and decide if he did whatever he is doing to your wife, sister. mother, daughter or your neighbor would you punch him or laugh with him. Would it be okay?

          • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 11/19/2017 - 11:43 am.

            If Franken and my wife, sister, mother, daughter

            had spent several days together as a bawdy theatrical troupe (and particularly if my wife, sister, mother, daughter had played the sex object), of course it would be OK. Have you ever gone to the Renaissance Festival? Should all of the women who play wenches have sexual harassment claims against their male co-workers who made lecherous jokes about them? A picture may paint a thousand words, but they‘re not all the same words. Until you know the facts and context, you don’t know anything. The ethics committee will assemble the facts and context and then you can make your judgment.

            And even if it weren’t OK, how is it relevant to Franken’s continuing fitness to serve as Senator? To stand on an absolute principle against bawdy humor on behalf of my wife, sister, mother or daughter, I’m going to demand that perhaps the one leader most vigorously defending them against being stripped of a decent wage, their health care, autonomy over their own bodies, and having a nuclear bomb dropped on them should step down?

  5. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 11/17/2017 - 10:33 am.

    Is it so hard to get the simple things right?

    “[A] later incident — captured on camera — in which Franken, flashing a smile, appears to grope her breasts while she was asleep on the military plane.”

    The incident was not “captured on camera,” it was posed for the camera. Franken is not “flashing a smile,” he is mugging for the camera. He does not “appear to grope her breasts,” he is miming the act of groping her breasts. Frankly, we do not even know if Tweeden is asleep.

    There is no touching, threat of touching or intent to touch. It was not a sexual assault. It was a comic act -albeit a juvenile one. We do not know what Franken or those who were present thought the joke was – a self-effacing joke; a joke about lascivious men or about the notion of trying to grope a woman’s breasts through a flak jacket; a joke about a dynamic that may have developed within the troupe between a sarcastic left-leaning Jewish guy trying to get under the skin of a superficial, right-wing woman without a similar sense of humor; or something else that may relate to the context, which happened to be that of a bawdy USO tour. And of course, under the present ground rules, Franken is not permitted to speak to what occurred or the context in which it should be understood, because this would be taken as questioning Tweeden’s veracity or sincerity (although there is ample reason to question both of these). Presumably in the ethics investigation those involved will state what they believe to have been true, and those who are interested can evaluate and make judgments.

    And this is fully aside from the question of what is relevant in judging fitness for elected office. The policies that an elected official will advance is just a little bit more important to me than whether he ever made a sophomoric sexual joke, even if that joke embarrassed someone (which itself is not a given here, to say the least). Ted Kennedy behaved dreadfully toward women in his personal life, but the world would be a lot worse for millions had he not served. At a time when those in power are trying to suck every last dollar to themselves, and in doing so are turning civilization into chaos and foreclosing the possibility that my daughters may have a decent life, I’m not going to demand that one of the very few elected officials fighting passionately for ordinary folk remove himself from his position of influence because he made a poor joke. Democratic officials whose immediate reaction has been to call for Franken’s resignation elevate pandering over reflection, courage and leadership and should be ashamed of themselves.

    If this is a time when sexual harassment, and the exercise of power thru modes of sexual coercion, are to be confronted and if this is a moment when we are to make progress as a society with respect to these matters, we will need pretty quickly to develop a capacity for moral nuance and reflection or it will not end well. And if liberals decide that having made a sexual remark about a woman (or even having kissed her more intrusively than was her understanding of the implicitly negotiated expectation) disqualifies a man from public office, well, let’s just give all the rest of our money to Trump, Mnuchin and the rest of the gang, shut off the light, and call it a day.

    • Submitted by John Webster on 11/17/2017 - 11:21 am.


      In other words, the good Ted Kennedy did – he being the only person from Massachusetts who could have done this good – outweighs his appalling, likely drunken conduct that should have landed him in prison for involuntary manslaughter, i.e. leaving a young woman to drown and then enlisting his family, friends, and media cronies to get him out of a jam.

      • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 11/17/2017 - 12:04 pm.

        I’m not speaking of Chappaquiddick.

        That was before my time and I’m not knowledgeable about it. All should be subject to the law and to justice, including the wealthy and connected. My reference was to Kennedy’s legal but boorish sense of sexual entitlement in his ordinary walk of life.

        I elect a legislator as my agent, to represent my views in our collective, democratic decisionmaking process. I don’t elect a legislator to be my moral exemplar. Few humans live lives of pure, distilled virtue and given the ego and pragmatism needed to run for and be effective in office, even fewer legislators. Given that what legislators do is profoundly non-transparent, evidence of personal character – honesty, consistency, worldliness and humanity above all – is relevant as it bears on my ability to trust that my representative in fact is committed to the principles and policies that he or she has claimed to be, and will be effective in advancing them. Humor that now and again teeters past irreverance into juvenilia – particularly when weighed against a strong demonstrated record working for policies that actually protect women – may tell me that Franken has an odd maturity blind spot, but just doesn’t bear much on the question of his fitness for office.

      • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 11/17/2017 - 08:14 pm.

        Ted Kennedy wasn’t known as a liberal lion for nothing; I think the tragedy of Mary Jo Kopechne’s death may have catalyzed much of his later accomplishments as you don’t really live something like that down, i.e., he needed to do much more than one might expect of a public servant.

        Certainly Sen. Franken’s conduct does not come close to what we are hearing of others who harass and abuse women and I think he is a valuable asset to his constituents still, but this issue is toxic to all; he is doing everything right IMHO. He should take whatever the Senate Ethics Committee rules to heart, finish out his term, and decide if he should run for reelection.

        Frankly, the outrageous way Roy Moore is dealing with much worse allegations, very credible as well, is hypocritical. Alabama Republicans seem to think being a Christian excuses all bad conduct, but Roy Moore is anything but a Christian; Moore is likely going to Hell if there’s anything to this Judaeo-Christian-Islamic religious narrative. I sure hope he’s not going into the Senate (kind of hellish as well, almost as much so as the House). A real Christian would repent and ask forgiveness of God and those he wronged, but this is not Moore or many more pious folks you could think of. Then, there’s Trump.

    • Submitted by Mike Schumann on 11/17/2017 - 11:31 am.

      Well Said

      We are rapidly heading for an era where anyone who is male is automatically disqualified from holding political office.

    • Submitted by LK WOODRUFF on 11/17/2017 - 01:52 pm.

      Sexual harrassment is not the same as sexual assault!!

      A very wide net is being thrown now…..and situations are being confused!!

      I started out thinking this national backlash by women was a good thing, but it is quickly morphing into a huge mixed mess. There are a variety of increments involved here, ranging from:

      casual and cultural ‘boys will be boys’ impetuous, impulsive and inappropriate behaviors, like grabbing, pushing up against, kissing, etc….

      to the Weinstein approach of calling a woman to a room and appearing undressed and then suggesting unwanted sexual activities and masturbating, etc…

      to the Cosby approach of drugging his victims senseless so he could rape them without a fight…

      to the Moore approach of stalking and sexually assaulting adolescent girls (i.e., children).

      The first actions listed above occur often and are a cultural problem that needs to be remedied, so the females can live, learn and work in comfort and safety. Boys need to be raised differently, to appreciate females and consider them as equals. When they cross boundaries they need to be met with swift and serious consequences so their harassive behaviors stop, instead of escalate.

      The Weinstein, Cosby types of actions are far more serious and are classified under sexual assault, not sexual harassment. Different states have different definitions. There are also legal definitions, easily found in online searches on reputable legal sites or the Justice Dept’s site. I urge everyone to read them for clarity.

      Moore’s activities are also serious and criminal, but different as well because it falls under: pedophilia.

      NONE of the above are political. Or shouldn’t be!
      It is all about INTENT and CONSENT, and moral behavior.

      So everyone needs to take a deep breath here and take a step back and get their terminology and legalities straight. If we start to bring up and investigates every single case of harassment that ever took place, our economy will screech to a halt because so many folks wb busy with so many cases, and an insane number of men will lose their jobs, careers, livelihoods due to inappropriate but not criminal behaviors. That’s absurd over-reach.

      The ones who must be separated from society are the serious perverts and perpetrators. They sb in jail.
      Not voted or placed into positions of power and authority where they can continue their aberrant and harmful behaviors.

    • Submitted by Jeff Watczak on 11/17/2017 - 03:10 pm.


      You say there was “no intent to touch”. How can you possibly know that?

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/17/2017 - 04:10 pm.


        it was a staged picture. He was mugging for the camera. How can you possibly not know that?

      • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 11/17/2017 - 04:20 pm.

        Because it was a posed photo.

        If you and I are at Thanksgiving dinner, and we’re posing for a photo in which I’m holding the pumpkin pie as though I’m about to hit you in the face with it, that doesn’t mean I have the intent to hit you in the face with the pumpkin pie.

        Also, she is wearing a flak jacket.

        • Submitted by Dan Kitzmann on 11/18/2017 - 02:33 pm.

          Posed by whom?

          Except in this example you and I are both conscious and in on the tomfoolery. Ms. Tweeden said she was asleep during Franken’s prank. In the photo she indeed appears to be asleep. Perhaps you believe she is lying, or this is a conspiracy, but if she was asleep she was not posing in the way you mean it.

          I’ve heard the flak-jacket justification a lot, too. Her wearing heavy clothing somehow makes this more excusable, I guess. So what, even if Al did touch her chest he couldn’t really feel anything, so no big deal?

          • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 11/19/2017 - 09:01 am.

            And Franken wasn’t holding a pumpkin pie.

            The question was how do I know Franken did not have the intent to touch Tweeden. The answer is because Franken’s intent was to participate in a staged photo in which he was playing a lascivious man coveting Tweeden’s breasts. It was a staged gag (however juvenile or potentially inappropriate), not a physical assault.

            Your second paragraph is a non-sequitur. Franken did not touch her chest.

            • Submitted by Dan Kitzmann on 11/19/2017 - 12:18 pm.

              So why point out she was wearing a flak jacket?

              Absent superhuman powers or the existence of a video evidence, none of us here can know if he touched her chest before or after the moment the photo captures. Al has not addressed this specific issue. My guess is he did not touch her at all before or after that moment, or if he did it was incidental to the gag to get an additional yuk from the onlookers.

              This is a belief, not a truth claim to something unknowable from the photo. You may say there is no difference between saying “He did not touch her” and “I do not believe he touched her” in this context. I disagree.

              Well, you raised the pumpkin pie example in arguing the photo is staged. Yes, it was staged between Al and the photographer. Bully for them. I’ve not read anybody disputing it was staged in this limited sense.

              How about Ms. Tweeden? Did she consent to being treated as the sexual object of the joke? Does the fact she was asleep bother you? It does me. Which is why this is more serious than a pantomimed adolescent locker-room fantasy taken too far by a 55-year old comedian with loathsome taste.

              • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 11/20/2017 - 09:47 am.

                Again, the question was

                How do I know Franken did not have the intent to grope Tweeden. The flak jacket was relevant because it made it physically impossible for Franken to grope Tweeden. It is fair to presume that Franken was not intending to do something that plainly would have been impossible to do.

                If Tweeden in fact was sleeping, yes, that certainly could be very relevant. Or, it may not be. Again, facts and context. When they are determined we all can make our judgments.

                And I reserve adjectives like “loathsome” to those who physically molest 14-year-old girls, slash health insurance coverage, vote to take all the money out of the pockets of ordinary people to give to their wealthy campaign donors, and go golfing when Puerto Rico still doesn’t have electricity.

    • Submitted by Janet Baumanis on 11/19/2017 - 01:52 pm.

      Al Franken

      I can’t thank you enough for this reasonable, nuanced, clear-eyed assessment of Al Franken’s behavior. We need more of this, not simple knee-jerk responses.

    • Submitted by jim hughes on 11/21/2017 - 06:46 pm.

      Thanks for taking the time to write that up. How quickly an issue becomes a crusade, and then a witch hunt.

  6. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 11/17/2017 - 10:35 am.

    Kind of strange

    Bad polls in AL, tax bill that is ruinous to most taxpayers and then this accusation, would let this play out before rushing to judgement.

  7. Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/17/2017 - 10:38 am.


    How many of the people here expressing outrage feel the same about Donald Trump, who has been accused by dozens of women of far worse things, and has been caught on tape bragging about sexual assault?

    How does Franken’s kiss and picture pretending to grope her breasts compare to Roy Moore stalking and (statutorily) raping teenage girls?

    You either take this seriously or you don’t – it shouldn’t matter what party the alleged abuser belongs to. A lot of Democrats (myself included) ignored the allegations against Bill Clinton in the 90s, just as Republicans are ignoring Trump’s behavior. Stop with the hypocrisy or shut up about the whole thing.

  8. Submitted by Colin Brownlow on 11/17/2017 - 10:53 am.

    He should go.

    I get why he’s not resigning, but for him to stay smacks of hypocrisy. He’s done exactly what he’s railed against others for doing. Franken wasn’t some kid when he made the USO tour – he was in his mid-50’s at the time. At that age I expect people who aspire to positions of responsibility to act like adults and be aware of their actions. I don’t expect them to be mugging for the camera while pretending (at least I hope it was just pretending) to grope a sleeping woman’s breasts. How sophomoric, how demeaning. The picture disgusted me when I first saw, but beyond that made me question the man’s integrity and judgement.

    Great article in

    This would have been a chance to take the moral high ground with very little long term risk and the Democrats blew it.

    • Submitted by Ed Day on 11/17/2017 - 12:05 pm.

      Agreed – he should resign

      I would like to think Schumer’s hedging is just a stall to give Franken time to write his resignation speech. While Franken has been a relatively strong advocate for women (support for Planned Parenthood, etc.), it’s hard to see how he can be effective after this.

      Sophomoric humor appears to be a staple of USO performances and American life in general. However, the fact that it has been ingrained in our culture is no excuse.

      What’s most telling to me is that incident occurred in 2006 — after years of political correctness running amok — and Tweeden still felt uncomfortable coming forward until now. While Tweeden wasn’t as solidly established as she is now, she appeared to already have a number of significant accomplishments in the entertainment world under her belt. For her to be fearing backlash at that point in her career says a lot about the attitudes at the time.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/17/2017 - 01:12 pm.

        Why Now?

        “What’s most telling to me is that incident occurred in 2006 — after years of political correctness running amok — and Tweeden still felt uncomfortable coming forward until now.” Until now, after her pal Sean Hannity had to admit that Roy Moore, the ephebophile whose continued candidacy he was championing, probably is guilty. What’s telling is that Republican agitprop man Roger Stone knew about the Franken story before it broke.

        This does not make the allegations against Franken suspect, and it certainly does not mitigate them. It does suggest that they are being brought up now as a coordinated plan of attack.

        • Submitted by Ed Day on 11/17/2017 - 10:59 pm.

          It could send a strong statement

          By resigning under circumstances that are magnitudes less heinous than Schoen or Moore, he’d be championing women’s rights in an unprecedented manner.

          Of course, he’d have to give up a job he is very good at to do so. (For the record, I doorknocked for Franken in both campaigns and I think he’s a better senator than comedian.)

          If somehow it is proven that Tweeden only came forward now as a coordinated attack, then the resignation is that much more powerful. (Again, at the expense of his career.)

          So obviously I can see why he might be fighting it. The alleged kiss and the photo are two separate incidents. The photo is obviously posed and includes more people besides Franken (at least whoever shot the pic), so there is part of the story we don’t know there.

          I also don’t know why Franken would include it in a photo set that Tweeden would see if it was meant as anything but a stupid joke. But I can’t read minds.

          As for the alleged kiss, unless military bases are equipped with more security cameras than a grocery store — and keep them for 11 years — it’s her word against his. She said they rehearsed without anyone else present, so there are no eye witnesses.

          • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/20/2017 - 10:22 am.

            Strong statement?

            If Tweeden is not telling the truth (and I’m not saying she isn’t) and Franken resigns anyway, how is that a strong statement? How does that benefit anyone? It means Democrats will have another Senate seat to defend in 2018 (and the same one again in 2020) and another 20 millions dollars to raise. Plus the loss of a good senator. The message it sends it that you can destroy a career with lies (again, assuming she is lying – which isn’t clear). That “Me Too” can get turned into a political weapon.

            Will Franken resigning make Republicans resign? Trump himself – with many more, much more serious, accusations – is going after Franken while ignoring Roy Moore.

        • Submitted by Susan Maricle on 11/22/2017 - 10:49 am.

          Why now? Net neutrality.

          Franken is one of the biggest defenders of net neutrality, which is being jeopardized.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/20/2017 - 10:27 am.

      Moral high ground

      The Democrats take the moral high ground, while the Republicans take away health care and give tax cuts to the rich. Awesome.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/21/2017 - 06:23 pm.

      Do you

      Really believe there is such a thing as moral high ground, when the Evangelical religious right is supporting a guy that was chasing 14 year old’s? And they supported a Presidential candidate that bragged about grabbing women in the crotch? So what does this moral high ground look like when the politics today is to throw folks off health care to fiance tax cuts for Billion/Trillion $ corporations. Or throw kids out of America because their folks are illegal immigrants like 2-3-4 decades ago? Looks like we are in more of a moral civil war, or scorched earth policy, where the biggest propagandist defines what the moral high ground is. Suspect Bannon thinks he has the flag on the moral high ground, along with the Governor of Alabama, Hannity, etc. etc.

  9. Submitted by John Webster on 11/17/2017 - 11:02 am.

    No-frank Franken

    Franken only really apologized during his second statement after his first statement was roundly condemned by his colleagues as a non-apology apology. He thought he could minimize the damage by the type of insincere “…if I offended anyone” malarkey often used by the truly guilty. I’d like to know if his victim accepted his apology out of graciousness or because she doesn’t want to see an ideological soulmate’s political career ended.

    No informed person is shocked by this incident. Franken has long been a vile, vulgar man who made a career out of tasteless “comedy.” I grudgingly voted for him in 2008, but I was never fooled into believing that he has ever been an admirable person. There have been credible rumblings for years about Franken’s ugly demeanor in D.C., and that he is often abusive toward his staff. Imagine if, say, the StarTribune were an honest, non-partisan news source that could be bothered to publish unflattering information about a politician whom they have long supported in both editorials and so-called hard news stories.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/17/2017 - 12:40 pm.

      “Ideological Soulmate”

      Ms. Tweeden is a Trump supporter. She has also appeared as a guest on Sean Hannity’s program many times. Ms. Tweeden made her revelations about Senator Franken shortly after Hannity admitted the allegations against Roy Moore are probably true (Hannity had been a vocal defender of Moore).

      “There have been credible rumblings for years about Franken’s ugly demeanor in D.C., and that he is often abusive toward his staff.” I’ve never heard that. Is there a source for your “credible rumblings?”

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/17/2017 - 12:56 pm.


      Tweeden is not his ideological soulmate. She is a right-winger who has appeared on Hannity. The story was leaked to right-wing media before she went public.

      A group of Franken’s former female staffers just released a statement saying he treated them with the utmost respect. I’m not sure how to respond to anonymous “credible rumblings.”

  10. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 11/17/2017 - 12:34 pm.


    While shop lifting a flash light and armed robbery are both wrong, we don’t punish them equally because they are not equally serious. Saying that shoplifting a flash light is not as serious a crime as armed robbery doesn’t diminish the seriousness of shoplifting, it merely acknowledges that the two crimes are not equivalent.

    Similarly, there is a big difference between a pattern of misbehavior, such as with Judge Moore or MN Sen. Dan Schoen, and what MAY prove to be a one time incident with Sen. Franken. Other shoes may drop, thus the may.

    An apology early on, even if bungled on the first attempt, is different than denial and rationalizations.

    None of this diminishes the seriousness of Sen. Fraken’s actions. I find calls for him to resign premature, pending more investigations.

    While some are drawing comparisons to Don Trump or Judge Moore, I can’t help but wonder about another woman who was not believed. Anita Hill.

    The MN GOP has called on Schoen and Franken to resign, but is still silent on Tony Cornish. Glass houses abound.

    So many more shoes to drop on so many men.

  11. Submitted by Margaret Houlehan on 11/17/2017 - 01:09 pm.

    Franken should resign

    Right after Moore and the grabber-in-chief, among others.

  12. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 11/17/2017 - 06:06 pm.


    it looks like Republicans have finally found something to be bi-partisan about.

  13. Submitted by Dave Paulson on 11/17/2017 - 08:06 pm.

    Franken has a chance to do America an heroic, historic service.

    Since his alleged offense (and I don’t doubt he kissed her inappropriately) is not even equal to the least offensive behavior claimed by 10 of Trump’s accusers, who are still claiming the behavior and at least one is trying to sue about his attack/denial,

    and many GOP functionaries and talking heads are demanding he resign,

    Franken should offer to resign the minute that Trump does.

  14. Submitted by Bill Willy on 11/18/2017 - 12:47 pm.

    Finally . . . A simple solution to a complex problem!

    “White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said on Friday that a major difference between allegations of sexual misconduct against Democratic Sen. Al Franken and those against President Donald Trump was in the two men’s responses.

    ” ‘I think in one case specifically Sen. Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn’t,’ she said. ‘I think that’s a very clear distinction.’ ”

    And there it is . . . That’s how we can tell whether or not people like the president, Judge Roy Moore, Tony Cornish, Dan Schoen, or everyday people in the regular world have engaged in “sexual misconduct”: We just ASK them and, if they admit it, they have; and, if they don’t admit it, they haven’t.

    Case closed. Time to move on.

    To, say, those tax cuts for corporations (like the president’s?) that really wouldn’t be another case of financial rape of almost all Americans and their kids who, if it passes, would wind up paying for one of the biggest (permanent) paydays in history for that handful of Americans (and their kids) who have more money than they could spend in 10 or 20 lifetimes.

    And how can we tell if it would be a financial rape or not? Why, the same easy peasy way, of course: Just ask the tax bill’s authors and backers. If they admit that it would be it would be. If they don’t admit it would be it wouldn’t be.

    Case closed. Time to move on to, say, gutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and every other non-defense thing the federal government spends money on to REALLY get investment, economic growth, high paying job creation and even MORE prosperity for the middle-class REALLY cooking!

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/21/2017 - 06:08 pm.

      You know

      Your comment reminds me of the quote in the Shawshank Redmption: Red says: “Everyone’s innocent in here. Don’t you know that?”

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 11/22/2017 - 01:15 pm.

      A citing from the lips of the horse’s mouth

      Yesterday, November 21

      “Trump Defends Roy Moore, Citing Candidate’s Denial of Sexual Misconduct

      “President Trump broke with leading Republicans on Tuesday and voiced support for Roy S. Moore . . . the president cited the vigorous denials by Mr. Moore . . . ‘He totally denies it,’ Mr. Trump said of Mr. Moore . . .

      “Asked by a reporter about whether electing ‘a child molester’ was better than electing a Democrat in the Alabama race, Mr. Trump responded by insisting that Mr. Moore denies the charges against him.

      ” ‘He says it didn’t happen,’ the president told reporters at the White House. ‘You have to listen to him, also.’ ”

      And there it is . . . enough of what passes for the president’s idea of truth and the “standard of proof” (that Jim Hughes mentioned) for him to endorse the Judge (who, of course, would be a sure vote for the tax plan the president, his corporation, his entire Cabinet, his “close associates” and all of their families would benefit from tremendously for many years or decades to come . . . you know . . . all those members of the middle class Republicans say will benefit the most from their plan).

      As the theme song of the president’s previously biggest reality tv show put it,

      For the love of money
      People will steal from their mother
      For the love of money
      People will rob their own brother

      For the love of money
      People can’t even walk the street
      Cuz they never know who they’re gonna [have to] beat
      For that lean, mean, mean green
      Almighty dollar

      Money money money muuuuuuuunny

      The truth? Standards of proof? Sexual misconduct, harassment, molestation, assault, statutory and plain old dark alley, parking lot, way-out-in-the-country and ongoing in-home rape?

      Yeah, well . . . All that stuff’s fine and dandy and can be worth thinking about sometimes (for all the thumb-sucking wannabe politically correct wimps of the world) but, to people like the president and the Real Men and Women who stand with him, NOTHING is more important than using their positions of ultimate government power to take advantage of — as Paul Ryan keeps putting it — “this once in a generation opportunity” to bring home the Really Big Bacon.

  15. Submitted by Susan Maricle on 11/22/2017 - 10:45 am.

    Women are being victimized. But by whom?

    I’m reading screen legend Errol Flynn’s autobiography My Wicked Wicked Ways. In the 1940s he was accused of statutory rape. At the same time Los Angeles had a corrupt city attorney who enjoyed the financial support of the movie studios. At election time the attorney faced off against a law-and-order candidate. The studios also donated to this candidate, but with insultingly low donations.

    Law-and-order candidate won. And wanted to make an example of someone. Who better than the legendary lothario Flynn.

    Flynn was acquitted at the grand jury. Shortly after, he received an anonymous phone call. “Flynn, you were lucky. Tell (studio head) Jack Warner that Joe called. And to send $10,000 to the corner of Melrose and LaCienega in two days.”

    Flynn refused. The grand jury verdict was overturned, and the case went to trial. Flynn was acquitted, but at great expense to his professional and personal life.

    These women were victimized, used as pawns, but Flynn wasn’t the one who was using them. The same thing could be happening today.

  16. Submitted by jim hughes on 11/21/2017 - 05:11 pm.

    standard of proof

    It’s easy to recognize a witch hunt: the standard of proof is zero. To accuse is to convict.

    During the anti-Communist hysteria of the 50s and 60s, the same groups were targeted: politicians, celebrities, and academics. You didn’t even have to be called a Communist, just a “sympathizer”, to be thrown over the side. And if you wouldn’t immediately join in condemning the witch, that meant you were probably a witch too.

    As with a war, the only time it’s possible to oppose a witch hunt is after it’s over.

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