If what Franken did was simply a mistake, and he’s too politically valuable to lose, when and to whom is this standard also applied?
The alleged offenses committed by Roy Moore, Al Franken, and Harvey Weinstein aren’t even in the same ballpark. Al Franken of course, the growing Democrat argument goes, is the lesser offender of the many and because he apologized for his actions in the now famously scandalous photo, he ought to be left alone to live his life in the U.S. Senate.
Several pieces have been penned making this argument for various reasons. They’re little more than fluffy excuses for alleged sexual predators who, without the consent of the other party(ies), prey upon weakness and vulnerability. No matter how you slice their alleged offenses they’re sick, not to mention wrong.
Kate Harding, a self-professed feminist and student of rape culture wrote an op-ed in the WaPo defending Franken, arguing he was too politically valuable to resign. Then there was the Hillary, cognitively dissonant as ever demanding accountability of Trump and Moore who faced their own bevies of sexual assault allegations.
Bill Maher and his crew, too, made this delineation. From Deadline:
Jokes out of the way, Maher got to his point: “He did a bad thing and the condemnation has been universal, which he deserves. What he doesn’t deserve is to be lumped in with Roy Moore. Or Kevin Space. Or Harvey Weinstein. Or Donald Trump, who calls his accusers liars, threatens to sue them, did long riffs at his rallies where he said they were too ugly for him to assault.
“Plus, with Al Franken we’re talking about one incident. Trump has 16 accusers. Roy Moore has nine. Roy Moore spent more time chatting up young girls at the mall than Santa Claus.”
Franken came up again later in the show when comedian and activist Chelsea Handler joined the panel and noted that Franken, facing one allegation, took responsibility, while Trump pretends he’s going to sue his accusers. (Watch the segment above.)
“I agree with you on Al Franken,” Handler said. “I’m sorry, he’s not a predator. Everybody who’s met him knows that’s not true. He made a mistake. He’s not a predator.”
Maher then challenged this afternoon’s cable news wisdom that Franken should resign, decrying a culture that doesn’t know “the difference between zero tolerance and maximum punishment.”
There is some truth to this particular argument. A one-time offender ought not be lumped into the same class as the Weinsteins who were serial predators. But should Franken’s one (or two, actually) offenses be dismissed just because it was only one-off occurrence? Is that really the precedent we want to create? I say ‘no’.
Franken may have accepted responsibility for groping a woman over a tactical vest while she slept (though there’s an entire truther movement suggesting he didn’t actually touch her, they’ve examined the photo closely, you see), but he’s yet to speak to Leeann Tweeden’s second and far more serious charge that Franken forced himself on her during a skit rehearsal. To that charge, Franken has merely said he remembers events differently.
WaEx’s Byron York:
But has Franken acknowledged the misconduct alleged by Tweeden? The answer is no. Franken has acknowledged the actions in a photo in which he mimics groping a sleeping Tweeden. But Franken has not admitted Tweeden’s more serious charge that he physically forced himself on her while rehearsing for a skit during a USA tour in 2006.
“He just put his hand on the back of my head and mashed his face against me,” Tweeden said in a news conference Thursday. “It happened so fast. He mashed his lips against my face and stuck his tongue in my mouth so fast. All I can remember is that his lips were really wet and slimy.”
Franken has not only not admitted that act but has said he has a different memory of the moment.
“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” Franken said in his first statement after the news broke.
Later, in a more extensive statement – one in which he discussed the photo at length – Franken said, “While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.”
On Friday, Franken addressed the subject for a third time, in an email to Tweeden. He apologized for the photo, but said, again: “I remember that rehearsal differently.”
My favorite piece on this subject was published by the NYT who are desperate to paint Franken’s actions as a mistake, not an offense.
But while there was no widespread public showing of support for Mr. Franken, a number of his allies, including three former “Saturday Night Live” colleagues and 10 former aides, all women, said that they did not believe his behavior fit a pattern or was in the same realm of misconduct as other high-profile men accused of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry, including the comedian Louis C. K. and the producer Harvey Weinstein.
“I’m just so upset about this atmosphere and good people being dragged into it,” said Jane Curtin, a member of the original cast of “Saturday Night Live” with Mr. Franken from 1975 to 1980 who has been close with him since. “It’s just like the red menace. You don’t know who’s going to be next.”
This was followed by anecdotes aplenty, all suggesting the photo was not indicative of Franken’s character. And they may be right. Women aplenty have publicly testified to his character, while one accuser says otherwise and yet another accuses Franken of harassment, though not sexual.
This paradox is exactly the issue that seems to escape (intentionally or not) media discussion on the matter: If Franken’s supporters are to be believed, should not that same benefit of doubt be extended to the supporters of other accused offenders? Should someone’s reputation, future, and career be tried in the court of public opinion as opposed to filing charges with law enforcement?
If what Franken did was simply a mistake, and he’s too politically valuable to lose, when and to whom is this standard also applied? The obvious answer is only to those who are Democrats, but that answer is hardly sufficient for the public who grow weary of double-standards and perverted logic in order to defend some while prosecuting others for the same offenses.
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