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Sen. Al Franken will resign, leaving behind a complicated legacy

Sen. Al Franken resigns
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Sen. Al Franken

A month ago, Sen. Al Franken was at the pinnacle of his career in politics: his sharp questioning of Donald Trump’s cabinet appointments made him a viral star and the darling of the progressive left. He was raising piles of cash for Democratic candidates. He had a best-selling book, “Giant of the Senate,” and had just come off a glowing publicity tour. Liberals were clamoring for him to make a run for the White House in 2020 — and pundits were seriously considering it.

Today, Franken announced he intends to resign from the U.S. Senate, beset by eight allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct spanning from the early 2000s to a few years ago. The first allegation, which came on November 16 from radio host Leeann Tweeden, prompted an outpouring of women sharing stories of Franken groping them, attempting to forcibly kiss them, or saying suggestive or lewd things to them.

Franken appeared determined to stay on and cooperate with a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into his conduct. But he found himself in an increasingly untenable situation after dozens of his Senate colleagues called for his resignation on Wednesday.

Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday morning, Franken announced that he will resign as a U.S. Senator in “the coming weeks.” Surrounded by about two-dozen of his Senate colleagues, his staff, and family and friends sitting in the Senate gallery, an emotional Franken spoke for about 10 minutes, announcing his resignation while denying some of the claims against him, and calling out the irony that Republicans accused of sexual misconduct are not facing the scrutiny he is.

“I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator,” Franken said forcefully, “nothing, has brought dishonor on this institution… But this decision is not about me. It’s about the people of Minnesota. It’s become clear that I can’t pursue the Ethics Committee process and at the same time remain an effective senator for them.”

The national reckoning over sexual harassment and assault — which began with revelations in October about film mogul Harvey Weinstein — reached Congress in November, and multiple lawmakers stand accused of sexual misconduct. Franken becomes the first senator to leave his job in disgrace in the wake of the “Me Too” movement.

Franken’s swift fall from grace has left Democrats in Minnesota and around the country stunned and saddened. Even before he was a senator, Franken loomed large in the world of Democratic politics: as a liberal polemicist and talk show host, he cultivated relationships with lawmakers and activists in many states. After eight years in the Senate, Franken’s popularity had grown in Minnesota, and he had become beloved among the state’s progressive base.

In the wake of his resignation, Democrats are struggling to come to terms with Franken’s political demise, what it means for his legacy, and more pressingly, its implications for Democrats in a political climate where the Republican president of the United States is accused of sexual assault, and an alleged child molester is a preferred Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama.

A spiraling scandal

Franken’s resignation caps a three-week period that saw the senator and his team attempt to manage a scandal that, with each fresh allegation, grew increasingly unmanageable.

Tweeden’s allegation — that Franken forcibly kissed her while “rehearsing” a skit during a USO tour to Iraq in 2003 — was accompanied by a photo in which a helmeted Franken is shown grinning, his hands lingering over the sleeping Tweeden’s chest.

That allegation was followed, over the course of the next 17 days, by stories from six more women: Lindsay Menz, who said Franken groped her during a photo at the state fair. Stephanie Kemplin, an Army veteran, came forward to say that Franken groped her in a photo during a USO tour, while she was serving in the War in Iraq.

There were allegations from back home in Minnesota, including from one woman who said Franken groped her and suggested they go to the bathroom together at a fundraiser in Minneapolis.

Through it, Franken struggled to craft a satisfactory response. After Tweeden’s allegation surfaced, Franken first said that he’d intended the whole thing in jest — and then issued a lengthier, more apologetic statement when backlash quickly mounted. (Notably, Tweeden accepted Franken’s apology, and did not call for his resignation.)

After hunkering down for the Thanksgiving holiday, Franken settled on a media strategy that walked a fine line: appearing contrite and talking about respecting women’s experiences while not admitting any wrongdoing, and apologizing for making women feel uncomfortable, not for any specific action he took.

Nevertheless, calls for Franken to resign came early, including from prominent Minnesota Democrats, like State Auditor Rebecca Otto and State Rep. Erin Murphy, both candidates for governor. Those calls persisted, and grew more prevalent, with each allegation against him.

But there were factors beyond Franken’s control that hastened his ouster. In particular, two people: Roy Moore and John Conyers.

Moore, the GOP nominee to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, is accused by multiple women of pursuing them or sexually assaulting them while they were minors — one as young as 14. Some Democrats grew to believe that their credibility in attacking Moore for his treatment of women was compromised as long as Franken remained in the Senate, no matter how different the allegations against them.

In Alabama, as the Washington Post reported, Moore supporters used Franken as a weapon, countering any question about Moore’s misconduct with a “what about Franken?”

After the initial allegations against Franken hit, it was revealed that Conyers, the long-serving Michigan Democratic congressman and civil rights icon, had been accused by multiple former staffers of sexual harassment. Allegations continued to surface, painting the picture of a serial harasser, and the 88 year-old Conyers resigned, bowing to sustained pressure from Democratic leadership for him to do so.

A situation where Conyers — one of the most prominent black politicians in U.S. history — left Congress but Franken remained in office, sent a poor message in the eyes of some Democrats, no matter how different the allegations against them. In the wake of Conyers’ resignation on Tuesday, black lawmakers publicly fumed at what they saw as a “double standard” at play.

‘It’s tragic’

Before Wednesday, most Democrats in Congress were reluctant to explicitly call for Franken’s ouster. Franken had insisted he would cooperate with an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee into his conduct, and that appeared to satisfy most of his colleagues.

When a seventh allegation against Franken was reported in Politico on Wednesday, the patience of congressional Democrats — particularly women — ran out.

Politico’s story detailed the account of a woman, a former aide to a Democratic congressman, who said Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of Franken’s radio show in 2006. The woman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Franken claimed it was his “right as an entertainer.”

In the 11 o’clock hour Wednesday morning, a cascade of Senate Democratic women, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, called for Franken to step down. Hours later, 28 Senate Democrats, the chair of the Democratic Party, and two members of Minnesota’s U.S. House delegation had statements out calling for Franken’s resignation. One more allegation of groping also surfaced, from writer Tina Dupuy in The Atlantic.

The Washington Post reported that, for weeks, female Democratic senators had been privately discussing Franken’s allegations and informally agreed that Wednesday’s story was the “tipping point.”

Calling on Franken to resign was not an easy move for many of his colleagues. Franken had been a popular, gregarious presence in the Senate, a sought-after co-sponsor, and a man who had donated tens of thousands of dollars to his colleagues’ campaigns through his political action committee.

By early Wednesday afternoon, the writing was on the wall: Franken’s office announced he’d be making a statement on Thursday.

On the House side of the Capitol later Wednesday, some Minnesota Democrats balanced sadness and relief at what looked to be an impending Franken departure.

First District DFL Rep. Tim Walz said “it’s a sad thing. It’s tragic for the people involved. Sen. Franken has done great work for Minnesota.”

But the Mankato Democrat, a candidate for governor, expressed frustration that the Franken story was overshadowing the work of himself and others in the Capitol. “We want to move on,” he said.

Not everyone was ready to move on, however. On Wednesday night, former Franken staffers and current political allies — not to mention supporters, speaking out on social media — reiterated their support of the embattled senator.

Alexandra Fetissoff, a former Franken aide, circulated a document detailing Franken’s accomplishments “on behalf of women” during his time in the Senate.

Reckoning with a legacy

In the wake of Franken’s resignation, Democrats grappled with the legacy the senator leaves behind as he prepares to exit political life. Allies and supporters want to remember him as a progressive champion, and in particular, a champion for women and issues that affect them. That view, however accurate, will have to be reconciled with the allegations that forced him from the Senate.

Terri Bonoff, a former Minnesota state senator who signed a letter of support for Franken last month along with dozens of other women, told MinnPost that the way Franken is leaving office will, to a large extent, shape how he will be remembered.

“For Al, personally, it casts a shadow on his legacy and for someone who has made such an impact and made a real mark on our state and on our nation, I feel badly he will be left with the sadness of the bitter end,” she said.

Bonoff said that her heart aches for Franken and his family, but that society cannot minimize the “sea change” that is happening now over sexual harassment and assault. She said she hopes that harassment is never tolerated but also that “we can still be compassionate and respect the service Al has given the state and the nation.”

Walz spoke on Wednesday about the impact of losing someone who had become an effective Senator. “There’s a gap there to fill for that progressive voice,” he said. “These things take a bit of time. They’re so sudden that, mixed in this with the horror of what was happening to the victims, [is] also understanding there was going to be a change.”

“There’s a lot of heartache,” he said.

Eighth District DFL Rep. Rick Nolan said Franken has been a “very good U.S. Senator… he’s been very effective.” He added “it’s a sad moment, both for Sen. Franken himself and for the people of Minnesota.”

In his speech on Thursday, Franken took time to define what he sees as his legacy in the Senate. “I am proud that during my time in the Senate, I have used my power to be a champion of women, and that I’ve earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside every day,” he said.

“I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am. Serving in the United States Senate has been the great honor of my life.”

Franken also named issues he’s taken on while in the Senate: prescription drug prices, programs for Native Americans, the need to fight for working people. He repeated quotes by the man who once held his seat, Paul Wellstone, early and often.

What’s next

More practically speaking, with Franken’s departure, Democrats lose a fundraising machine for the party ahead of a critical 2018 election cycle where control of the House and Senate hang in the balance. They also lose one of their most effective messengers, and a potential candidate for the presidency in 2020.

Some observers said Franken’s departure could help the Democratic Party in the long run. Christina Ewig, a professor of gender policy at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School, said the party can now credibly take the high road on sexual misconduct issues, drawing a clear contrast with a Republican Party that has not called for its own members, including the president, to resign or step aside over harassment or assault allegations.

“Franken has worked hard on a number of different levels to fight violence against women,” Ewig said. “He loses credibility on the issue when he has a string of allegations. He takes a step for the broader good on that issue when he does step down.”

Steven Schier, a professor of politics at Carleton College, said that Franken’s position as the first Democratic senator to step down in the wake of the Me Too movement will be a significant part of his legacy, but he agreed the decision has utility for Democrats.

“It gives them the moral high ground to attack Roy Moore and Donald Trump,” he said. “I think they believe they can get a lasting political advantage out of this.”

Ewig said Franken’s legacy could be somewhat like the legacy of another complicated Democratic figure: President Bill Clinton.

“People still recall the economic growth that Clinton drove under his presidency, but at the same time, when issues like sexual harassment come up, his own problems are also brought to the fore. I’m sure it will be a mixed legacy.”

Franken promised to advocate for the issues he cares about as a private citizen and activist. But he will not resign immediately, and it is unclear when he will officially leave the Senate. An aide said he will continue to carry out his duties as a senator until a date for his departure is determined, though the senator did not vote on a resolution to fund the government on Thursday evening. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint a replacement for Franken; notably, in his speech, Franken referred to his unnamed successor as a “her.”

After giving his speech, Franken hugged nearly every Democratic Senate colleague who sat and listened to him, including many of the members who called on him to resign yesterday. As the packed Senate Press Gallery filed out, Franken hugged every member of his staff who sat on the floor to watch his speech, and then he came to the dais of the chamber to shake the hands of the Senate’s professional floor staff.

“I’ll be seeing you,” he said.

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Comments (24)

No apologies

Left out of this article is the fact that Franken isn't in the least contrite about his degrading behavior. In his Senate speech, he claimed that the allegations against him are outright false or that he had a different memory of them, i.e. he really didn't act in a disgusting way toward women. Franken is sorry that he got caught, that his in-character behavior finally caught up with him. Likewise for Roy Moore, Bill O'Reilly, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, et al.

Franken

You must have missed the news a few weeks ago. He is contrite. He said he didn't remember some things, that he remembered some things differently, and he made abject apologies to anyone he offended and said he wanted an investigation by the ethics committee. Maybe he felt he had apologized so many times he didn't need to apologize again.
I always marvel at people who post things about what is going through other people's minds.
Let's all admit there is much we do not know and may never know. Assume a little humility. Try it.

It is a tragedy that Franken was

forced out without due process. I don’t agree with any of his far left policies but he surely has the right to protect his reputation. He claimed in his resignation speech he was innocent and should have the righ5 to prove it. Unfortunately it looks like the Democrats will decide who to back and who to dump (Clinton’s, Franken, Conyers) with or without proof. Dayton will appoint another far left Democrat and not much will change except Franken’s reputation.

Far left?

You might benefit by educating yourself about the meaning of Left Wing. Bernie Sanders is Left, but not at all far left. Franken is actually center. Klobuchar is a little farther right, more like a Nixon Republican.

Thank you, John.

The commenters from the Right, here and elsewhere, rail about the “leftist media.” The “leftist media” are so vigilant at excluding leftist views that these commenters don’t even know that leftism exists, or what it professes.

And thank you also for your very well-stated summation below as to the ambiguity of the charges, why Franken was unable to defend himself and the humility with which he accepted his unjust fate. My only criticism of Franken is that he failed to recognize that he immediately needed both to state honestly and clearly what he knew to be true (including the attendant subjectivities that, as to the sincere allegations, bridge the several women's perceptions and his intent), and to lay out a framework for how sexual harassment claims against public figures should be considered by our society (that would apply to himself, Trump, Moore and everyone else). This latter was not his responsibility, but it certainly doesn’t look like anyone else is going to do it, which as the cowardly and panicked response of the Democratic Senate caucus shows, will be the worse for all of us, including those concerned about progress against sexual harassment.

John, if you think a self

described socialist (Bernie) is not far left, you need to educate yourself on socialism, liberals, centralized government and Left Wing. Yes, Minnesota is a far left state. Hopefully that will change as folks see the results of Big Government run amok with increased tax dollars to feed the beast.

He says he don't remember;

He says he don't remember; it's satire; I didn't do nothing.

Well, maybe, but what kind of guy trundles himself off in disgrace? Not an innocent one.

Franken

No, he said he DOESN'T remember so incidents.

Franken

Oh, and he never said "I didn't do nothing." If he said anything like that, he used standard English. If anything, he said he did remember some things, didn't remember others in the same way. . . . Everyone of these incidents took place in PUBLIC -- not privately as Charlie Rose, Moore, and most of the others.

Three short responses

First, unless Mr. Webster is personally well-acquainted with Mr. Franken, he has no business labeling Mr. Franken's behavior was "…in-character." Bad behavior it may be. Inexcusable, even, but if you don't know the man, you have no idea whether the behavior was "in-character" or not.

For a change, I'm in partial agreement with Joe Smith. Franken has seen nothing that even faintly resembles due process, and I continue to be troubled by the current environment wherein an accusation is all that's necessary for the rest of us to assume guilt. Franken may absolutely be guilty, and I'm inclined to believe women more than men in these kinds of situations, but accusation cannot always, automatically, be equated with guilt, at least, not in a society that claims some allegiance to the rule of law. As for Mr. Smith's suspicions about Governor Dayton's appointment to replace Franken, I hope his assumption of "…another far left Democrat…" is accurate.

As for Mr. Senker, "…what kind of guy trundles himself off in disgrace?" I'd suggest it's one who still has a conscience, and some degree of honor, unlike our current President, and several other prominent males who've been similarly accused, but have neither resigned nor apologized.

No one who has behaved badly wants to get caught, and no one who gets caught wants to be publicly humiliated. Franken gets at least a few points from me for at least dealing with the consequences in a public and relatively straightforward manner.

Franken

He resigned in dignity. He does have a conscience, although many many others who refuse to resign or even admit their wrongdoing are still making a lot of racket. Let's start with #45, round up the "judge" and a few others.
I still like him, think he's been effective and honorable in his job, and feel as though he's been hounded out.

This "current environment", where someone's career & life

...can be destroyed IN A DAY (see Charlie Rose, Garrison Keillor), cannot possibly be a fair process, even if its final outcome is about right.

It reminds me of the process afforded the accused by Joe McCarthy and his committee, but really extends all the way back to the Puritans, who burned people at the stake as witches based on no fact, but rather mere accusation, in an atmosphere of fear, agitation, and - of course - righteous outrage.

We are now seeing a long overdue public policy of Zero Tolerance for sexual harassment and predation, but in its early days (i.e., right now) may be subject to its own excesses before it matures.

Franken doesn't remember. He

Franken doesn't remember. He only resigned because his fellow Senators ousted him from the Senate. He was contrite in his resignation speech. He was not sorry at all. He was sorry he got caught! And he made a fool of himself!

Franken

Reading minds again. You are mis-remembering what he said. He did not resign only because the senators "ousted him." They did not. They urged him to resign.
He resigned because, without an investigation, everyone was piling on and I think he realized he could not be effective any longer.

Prophecy rather than humor?

The wisdom of Stuart Smalley:
“You're should-ing all over yourself."
“Denial ain't just a river in Egypt!"
"I'm in a shame spiral."
“You're only as sick as your secrets."
"Compare and despair."

Better Quotes from Stuart

Hey, Al...

A lot of us remain convinced that -
You're good enough,
You're smart enough,
and doggone it,...
we STILL like you,...

and we like your fellow Democrats who hounded you out of the Senate without anything even remotely resembling due process,...

based on an "anonymous" accusation,...

a whole LOT less than we used to.

Some of us are even trying to remember why it is we've called ourselves Democrats for our entire lives.

But then, again, I'm sure all your fellow senators (Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand chief among them) have divided up the endless hours you put in advocating for "far left" causes,...

for mostly powerless people,...

so that our complete and total protection of the the tender backsides of those women who felt your brief touch and were creeped out by it,...

will not end up doing tremendous damage to people with far less power than those mostly well off white women.

Of COURSE they haven't!

I'm left with a lingering question - who is the Democratic Party seeking to serve and is there anything even remotely resembling balance in how they approach doing so,...

because at this point in time, they seem to be aimed at serving a very tiny portion of the population to the complete exclusion of ALL others.

Lingering questions

A lot like the republicans. I agree with all you say. I like him too. (I got a sympathy note from a good friend in Chicago; lots of us are really unhappy.
(And imagine if Norm Coleman had won. He barely bothered to conceal anything and his stories were not exactly credible.)

franken resignation

"..left democrats here and around the country stunned and saddened". That was a jarring sentence because it doesn't match the reactions of friends and family who vote for Democrats, here in Minnesota or elsewhere.
Not stunned because the behavior in question is just all too common in the experience of women, and most young people, including men, seem to know this, even if they have not experienced it personally. Not saddened, either, but encouraged that this movement might actually have lasting, positive effects.

Liberal circular firing squad

Liberals always shoot their friends first out of some misguided fear of hypocrisy or something. I don't get it. In any case, it doesn't work. Your side does not win any political points for it and it never makes your party stronger or purer.

I think Franken made a really noble sacrifice here. I find the Tweeden accusation highly dubious, and there's plenty of reason to think that it, and maybe one or two others are in fact right-wing dirty tricks. A few other accusations may be open to interpretation, but there have almost certainly been some instances of deliberate, inappropriate touching.

Franken's sacrifice is that, from the first, he has declined to defend himself in the court of public opinion, preferring to wait for the ethics committee process. His apologies have all been very humble but non-specific because he doesn't agree that he did many of the things he's accused of. He said nothing in his own defense publicly because he wants women to be able to step forward without risk and be taken seriously.

As his party circled the firing squad, he realized that he could serve best by foregoing his own defense, accepting the injustice being done to him, and bowing out gracefully. His senate seat and his public reputation were acceptable sacrifices to make in the struggle for gender equality.

Franken Resignation

As one of the 53.2 percent of MN voters that cast their 2014 vote for Al Franken, I am feeling disenfranchised.

Franken has been a champion for women's issues. He has apologized for minor offenses and apologies were accepted. He is accused of no crimes or misdemeanors. There have been no hearings, except in the public media. My 2014 vote has now been nullified (Trumped?) by the demands of a dozen or so elected Democrats most of whom are not even from MN. Then Mark Dayton gets to cast the single vote that elects a MN Senator for the next year.

Franken

I am feeling disenfranchised, too. I voted for him, twice, and a couple dozen democrats took him down, worrying more about the next election than about us, him, the country. Doubt we will see anyone as effective for a long time.

He was with her. They weren't with him.

Ironic, isn't it -- superdelegate Franken supported Hillary despite his state's preference for Bernie Sanders -- and it was a group of women senators who led the call for his removal. Bus undercarriages can be very uncomfortable, I hear.

Inaccurate Statement

Sam Brodey, it's inaccurate to say that "The first allegation... prompted an outpouring of women sharing stories of Franken groping them, attempting to forcibly kiss them, or saying suggestive or lewd things to them." Please provide the details to support this claim. In this hyper-charged political climate, the details matter more than ever. Isn't it true that all the women after the first said that they felt Franken had crossed a line while posing for photos, including side squeezes that can hardly be construed as sexual harassment or abuse. https://www.change.org/p/dianne-feinstein-support-al-franken-to-stay-in-...

In Short and Simple Words: DFL and DNC Failed Franken and Us

Following an article on Franken's resignation, on Saturday, December 9, 2017, I wrote a response to the inequities of both the folly of our Democratic and DFL Parties' leaders for throwing Al under the train for relatively innocuous physical contact with women -- which are not so uncommon among many women's comedic and dramatic behavior toward men.

I also brought up my concerns for having been accused, adjudicated, and evicted from two properties whose managers knew of my bout with a mental illness called bipolar disorder -- with symptoms that both U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, MBE, experienced. In those two complaints of "sexual harassment, I later found that my "sexually ogling" one woman was due to the fact that I couldn't see her very well from a range of three feet -- and learned that I was nearsighted and had eye-problems.

In her friend's statement that I sexually touched her, I later learned, after being adjudicated and found guilty of "sexual harassment" by a malicious and biased dorm director, that I experienced orthostatic hypotension which made me dizzy when I quickly stood up, lost all vision, began to fall, and instinctively reached out to buffer my fall -- touching a woman's knee, and was again found guilty of sexual harassment and banned from living in the University of Minnesota housing properties for the rest of my life.

In both cases in 1988, the dormitory director found no sense of responsibility or care that my University of Minnesota doctors provided evidence that my actions were created by medical issues and not predicated by predatory behavior or far out problems with boundary issues. I speak of these issues, openly, now, as given our current political and media environment, actions that occured manyh years ago, and which have fallen our of the statute of limitations, are being used to defame men who have, in some instances, grown and developed beyond earlier lack of sensitivity or awareness of the potential threats to their reputation.

I noted that both the stigma of "mental illness" created fear among some women who were subject to the gossip of a dormitory employee; and that our nation is losing its edge as a place where we can, as both men and women with some forms of medical conditions, expect to be treated unfairly.

I also noted that a status seeker who was entirely too thrilled with the stories she heard of me as being fro a prominent family with studies and travels at schools in Europe and Central America for language acquisition and study of pediatric health care management, became a huge bubble which burst upon her rhetorical questions of my family's perceived wealth and prestige, which she answered based on gossip about me at an upscale apartment complex just off campus; and that she later lied to a Minneapolis police officer on off-duty, but uniformed service at the apartment building, where she complained that I made "unwanted advances and unsolicited telephone calls," to her -- despite the fact that she had, in fact, invited me to call on her any time until midnight any day of the years; and never gave me her unlisted telephone number, as she said she had been stalked a year earlier.

She lied to a police officer and then complained to the management, which prompted an eviction notice which I did not contest, given my experience with too many young adults who were hung up on their families prestige and not on humanistic an courteous behavior to those whop admitted that their families chose to not finance their lives given the fact of the unhealthy and egoist behavior which many experience from such entitled treatment.

I also noted the prevalence of women using sexual harassment not only in acts of truth in their efforts to gain restorative justice; but also to pad the histories of men who have done very little, if anything, which appear on paper to look like men have behaved in a grossly injurious manner to some morally and ethically bankrupt women.

As a man who has reported the unethical and breaches of contract by a current manager of the property in which I have called home for nearly twenty-five years; and which earlier managers considered me to be an asset, as echoed by both Minneapolis Second Ward City Council Member Cam Gordon, and Minnesota attorney Brian Rice, who has served as counsel to forty-four year serving MN State Representative Phyllis Kahn, B.S., M.S, PhD, to superiors, and who came back with retaliatory sexual harassment allegation based on a comment that I made to the manager that among other places, I was "bitten on my thighs and buttocks" by three weeks of a bed bug infestation," which the woman failed to immediately address, despite the property having an exterminator on call to assure that such infestations to not expand throughout a residential property floor of many family units; I am clearly aware of the unethical and immoral use of sexual harassment laws and policies being use in a manner of ill-repute by some complainants.

While I do not condone Al's groping of a USO member's breasts, as shown in a photo from years before he became outspoken as an advocate of women's rights; the grabboing of bottoms is something which women have done to me, and which I thought was annoying, but not worth ruining their reputation.

The fact that Al has grown from that earlier period and has stayed out of trouble, and that he was open and contrite and sincere in his contrition -- as well as being embarrassed by his earlier behavior -- indicates to me a man who has done his best to develop and recognize the inappropriacy of some of his earlier actions.

As a man who has experienced scores of women putting their hands through my hair and over my cheeks at both a very high-end cosmopolitan hotel, and at a private property near Dallas, following a speech that I gave in Dallas at a Wyndham Hotel -- telling about the effects of two of our company's products on both my hair, beard, and skin, I understand that some touching, although surprising and inconvenient, is meant as fun. Women are also known to grab the asses of men, and are not subject to the persecution which the U.S. Senator experienced. As well, I, too, have been kissed by women, but did not think of their comedy as being "sexually inappropriate."

The fact that Senator Franken's females Democratic Party colleagues, and then male colleagues and our DFL Chairman's remark about Al on the www.dfl.org website were so immediate and failing in their allowance of both due process and also recognition of his development beyond earlier hijinx, I am distressed.

As one who touched the breast of an early adulthood date, before I had any experience in understanding the rules of dating and modesty, I am concerned that our current environment and political leaders are more interested in playing populist games and not adhering to sound principles of justice.

Again, I stand up for women and men who have been seriously aggrieved and hurt by others -- both men and women; but , too, have been subjected to crass abuse, including date rape while I was asleep one morning. I have had to decide whether non-injurious, but technically illegal behavior was worth going after the reputation and livelihood of women who has otherwise become an asset to her communities. My ultimate response to this prominent concern is that I, myself, will not go after women who have been innocent in their minds, and not malicious and injurious in their actions.

As a DFL senate district committee member, and member of our senate district's board of directors, I am very concerned, and also aware that some men and women colleagues are extremely uncomfortable and unwanting to discuss issues such as these in a mature and professional manner, as we should be willing to do as leaders in our society.

If you are reading this, Al, "Todd the Nerd," of your SNL days, was my friend, and he was as goofy in his adult life as he was at The Blake School -- but a savant in political thought. As I have forgiven you at one of our state's gubernatorial candidate's home several years ago, I again forgive you for mentioning his name in your showbusiness days. I recognize and am taken with admiration for the care you have given to both women and men and as a prominent member of the U.S. Senate judiciary committee; and, otherwise in your global work as a servant of our nation and the people of our planet who have gained through your conscientious and considerate care for humankind..

I believe many "leaders" in our party owe you an apology for not allowing due process or the reality of your personal growth and commitment to humanity to serve as buffers in their populist and knee-jerk reactions. I hope you will continue in othe ways to serve as an outspoken and dedicated leader in our community.

Barry N. Peterson, B.A., History
Minneapolis, MN -- USA