Two members of the King County Council are calling for the cancelation of a scheduled event with Al Franken at the Paramount in Seattle on Friday.
On Monday, Franken was accused of groping by an anonymous former staffer of Washington Senator Patty Murray. The woman, whose story was published in New York Magazine, says that at an event in Seattle in 2006, Franken, a guest speaker, put his hand on her butt during a photo opp. “I’m just frozen,” she recounted. “It’s so violating. And then he gives me a little squeeze on my buttock, and I am bright red. I don’t say anything at the time, but I felt deeply, deeply uncomfortable. It was such a confusing experience.”
The woman, who is reportedly a military veteran who works at a “large progressive organization,” said that she that the experience “rocked my confidence” and that she had decided to remain anonymous because she someday wants to be a cabinet secretary in a Democratic administration. “Knowing the vetting process,” she said, “I know that anything can be used as a flag to say ‘Not this person.’ The idea that I would not get a job and would always wonder, Was it the article where I was the one who was raising my hand against a powerful man?”
This is the ninth accusation against Franken. The first allegation came from Leeann Tweeden, a conservative radio host, who accused him of harassment on a 2006 USO trip overseas. The Senator asked for an investigation into her claims, but amid more allegations and mounting pressure from his Democratic colleagues, including Patty Murray, he resigned.
Tweeden’s claims were investigated over a year later by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, who poked major holes in her story, but few, if any, of the remaining allegations have been investigated by either media or law.
In a letter to STG, King County Council Members Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Joe McDermott, wrote, “An event that supports the comeback tour of a powerful man credibly accused of a growing number of sexual harassment and groping incidents contradicts STG’s value statement of 'Learning for All' to inspire the greater community through healing. This simply is not creating a safe space.”
Whether or not the claims against Franken are true (and they very well may be), if it looks like members of the government are pressuring a local nonprofit—one that receives county funds—to deplatform a speaker, well, they are. The council members, however, don't seem to see it that way.
"I would never want to deny people if they bought tickets and want to go," Kohl-Welles said. "This is a statement of principle. I do not like the idea of Franken coming here." When asked if there are other performances she'd like to see canceled, for instance, Morrissey, who has been credibly accused of racism and who is performing tonight, Kohl-Welles said she is unfamiliar with him.
When asked about the potential free speech implications of elected officials advocating for de-platforming, "No one has the right to have a sold-out performance at a theatre," Council Member McDermott told me. "The voices we should elevate are the victims. We need to assure them that we believe them and support them and that we care."
Kohl-Welles said she is "under no illusion" that the performance will actually be canceled, but if it's not, she plans on protesting outside the event on Friday.
STG did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
UPDATES: Morrissey actually did cancel his Seattle appearance (lol) but as far as I know it wasn't because of the King County Council. STG attributed the Seattle cancelation to "circumstances beyond our control." Incidentally, Morrissey reportedly kicked two protestors out of his show in Portland (naturally) last night.
As for the Franken event, a spokesperson said STG is evaluating the council members' comments and public feedback and will have an official statement shortly.