The number of men in power who have abused women is skyrocketing. Senator Al Franken’s name is among those, but there is a problem.
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Thirty-six women who worked with the Democratic Minnesota senator on Saturday Night Live (SNL) wrote a letter about him and issued it to the public. None of the other alleged sexual abusers have received that kind of support from their coworkers.
Abusers have a pattern, and where there is one who comes forward, many more will also have the courage also to speak out. Yet, the world has been strangely silent around Franken. However, victim after victim has condemned the Republican candidate for Alabama senator Roy Moore and television personality Charlie Rose.
Broadcaster Leeann Tweeden alleged that Franken aggressively kissed her during a 2006 USO tour. One other woman said that he put his hand on her buttocks as the two posed for a picture at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.
Not one of the 36 SNL women who worked with Franken both in front of and behind the camera claim to have been sexually harassed by Franken. Laraine Newman and Jane Curtin were among those women.
Franken was a highly successful comedian and author before he decided to go into politics. He ran for junior senator of his state and won in 2009 and 2015.
Although we have laughed at many members of Congress, none of them came from a career in comedy. The Minnesota senator became a somber activist for voters. Even though he came from an over-the-top profession, Franken maintained his integrity during those years, according to the SNL women who worked with him.
Unlike the alleged Republican offenders, including Donald Trump, the first thing Franken did was apologize, take a hard look at his actions, and call for an ethics investigation into his own behavior:
‘The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.
‘I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed. But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.’
The SNL cast and behind-the-scenes workers, all women, wrote this:
‘We feel compelled to stand up for Al Franken, whom we have all had the pleasure of working with over the years on Saturday Night Live (SNL).
‘What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it is appropriate for him to apologize to Ms. Tweeden, and to the public. In our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant.
‘That is why we are moved to quickly and directly affirm that after years of working with him, we would like to acknowledge that not one of us ever experienced any inappropriate behavior; and mention our sincere appreciation that he treated each of us with the utmost respect and regard.
‘We send our support and gratitude to Al and his family this Thanksgiving and holiday season.’
Franken serves on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary where he held Attorney General Jeff Sessions feet to the fire about Russia. He also serves on these committees: Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Energy and National Resources; and Indian Affairs.