Unlike some people on the left, I am not interested in forcing or coaxing anyone to agree with my point of view on the allegation from 2006 against comedian/writer and co-host of Air America Radio, Al Franken. I saw the interview in full with Leeann Tweeden, and I believed her without hesitation. I shared her blog post on the day it was published, adding “Wrong is wrong”. It does not mean I think Sen. Franken (D-MN) should resign “right away” without first taking a closer look at his track record as a U.S. Senator in relation to the advancement of women, and with respect to his inappropriate behavior toward women (assuming there is more than one person), prior to his career in politics. Tweeden’s acceptance of the Senator’s apology does not absolve Franken of his transgression. She even went further to say on Good Morning America: “I didn’t do this to have him step down. I think Al Franken does a lot of good things in the Senate. You know, I think that’s for the people of Minnesota to decide. I’m not calling for him to step down. That was never my intention.”
On an ironically related legislative note, I do agree with the sexual assault survivor who asked Sen. Franken to remove himself from the bill he co-sponsored in support of sexual assault victims. Franken is not a saint by any stretch (nor is any liberal or conservative Congress member before or after they went into politics). Here is something to consider: How many other male Senators have proposed legislation in support and empowerment of women?
Then there are the other leftists who minimize Tweeden’s painful experience, disparagingly referring to her as a former model, Fox Sports host, friend of Sean Hannity and guest on his show (hence she must have an ulterior motive)… it’s misogynistic and base… moreover, it is irrelevant. Even if there was some truth to the timing in which Tweeden shared her story, it is overshadowed by her courage in publicly articulating a very uncomfortable and traumatic interaction with Franken. Wrong is wrong, and there are degrees of wrong. Same is true for doing the right thing and the impact that it has… in the short-term and long-term.
Rebecca Traister, author, editor and feminist journalism who I respect, summed it up well on Real Time with Bill Maher (November 17th episode) with a holistic perspective on the culture of sexual assault and female denigration:
“The focus on what the punishment is going to be [for the sexual harassers] is also on some level an easier conversation to have because then we get to fight about it: ‘Should he resign?’ And then we all go to our partisan battle stations.
“[It’s easier] than actually looking at the more difficult conversation, which is about the whole culture: it’s about a culture that empowers white men to abuse their power in a million ways, from the villainous predators to the fact that there is a sense of humor that we all understand in this country, that if a woman is asleep it’s funny to grab her t*ts. And that a man [referring to Al Franken] can gain power and stature and a place in the public sphere by profiting from that comedy.
“That doesn’t make [Al Franken] the same as Harvey Weinstein, but it’s not about him. It’s about reckoning with the fact that we make that culture, we participate in that culture, it’s our good politicians, it’s our friends, it’s our husbands, and it’s ourselves. That is a harder conversation to have and it’s the one we should be having about this moment, not ‘Should he resign…’”
To that I would add: No matter one’s stance on women’s rights, anyone who says “it takes balls”, “grow a pair”, “man up”, “don’t be a p!ssy” and the like do not get that they are complicit contributors to the culture of sexism, misogyny and sexual assault.