As you may have read in Morning News, today radio anchor Leeann Tweeden accused Sen. Al Franken of groping her in her sleep and of sticking his tongue down her throat without permission on a USO tour in 2006. He became a senator three years later.
Tweeden provides a photo as proof of the groping (or at least of the pantomime of groping—I can't tell if his hands are actually touching her flak jacket or if they're hovering, but I'm finding it hard to care. In the photo its clear he wants the viewer to think he's groping her.)
And then here comes Franken's woefully unserious and incomplete apology:
Just got a response from @alfranken: "I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it."
— Asher Klein (@kleinstar) November 16, 2017
After reading this a few times, I'm not sure what he's apologizing for. If he doesn't remember the rehearsal for the skit the same way, then how does he remember it? If he remembers not "aggressively" sticking his tongue in Tweeden's mouth, of not pressuring her to practice a kiss, then why is he expending his sincerest apologies? Did he just pressure her into practicing the kiss but not use tongue? Did he use tongue but not pressure? What is he apologizing for?
As for his excuse about groping Tweeden in her sleep: Clearly Franken intends for this to be an apology, but why qualify it with a justification? These are gestures of casual dismissal, not of acceptance and remorse.
I've asked the office of Senator Maria Cantwell for comment. A spokesperson said they'll get back to me. I'll update this post when they do.
Since I started writing this post, Franken has offered a different, much longer, much better apology:
Right now Tim Kaine is weighing the sufficiency of the apology, other electeds are claiming not to have read the allegations, but I think he should step down. It feels silly to say this, but you can't sexually harass a person, offer up a bullshit response, and still hope to have a seat in the Senate. As Tweeden rightly mentions in her story, there are probably others with similar stories. Do we wait for three more to come out? Four?
Remember: he's just a fucking politician. These people are replaceable. That's the idea. It's true Franken is a funny and powerful politician who is clutch at a Senate hearing. But I bet there are plenty of other politicians in Minnesota who are capable of asking Jeff Sessions if he's ever seen a Russian.
As Weigel also points out on Twitter, if Franken steps down, the governor will appoint a Democratic replacement and call for a special election in 2018.
Statement from Senator Patty Murray:
This is unacceptable behavior and extremely disappointing. I am glad Al came out and apologized, but that doesn’t reverse what he’s done or end the matter. I support an ethics committee investigation into these accusations and I hope this latest example of the deep problems on this front spurs continued action to address it.
And now statement from Senator Maria Cantwell, sent to me at 11:00 a.m.:
Treating all women with dignity is of paramount importance. These actions are disturbing. I support an ethics committee investigation into this matter.
This afternoon Tweeden told reporters she accepts Franken's apology, and adds that they saw each other at a USO gala a few years after the incident: From the Hill: "He had a chance to apologize to me then, because he knew — he knew exactly what he did to me then and that picture was out there," she said.