Should Al Franken Resign?

Earlier this morning, radio newscaster Leeann Tweeden revealed that Sen. Al Franken had behaved inappropriately toward her during a USO tour of the Middle East in 2006. During a rehearsal for a skit that included a kiss, she says, he stuck his tongue in her mouth, and then took this picture on the way home:

Franken immediately acknowledged what had happened and apologized. This prompted the now drearily familiar round of pronouncements that he hadn’t apologized enough. “No matter what your political affiliation,” wrote Chris Cillizza at CNN, “you have to see how inadequate Franken’s first apology is.” So Franken apologized again. Oddly, Tweeden herself thought his apology had been just fine. Both of them:

No matter. Ed Kilgore thinks Franken is toast:

Franken is almost certainly going down, and the only question is whether he can somehow tough it out until the end of his current term in 2020. The odds are very low that he can, particularly since his entire career in politics and comedy is now going to come under fresh scrutiny for misogyny and/or hypocrisy.

There are two problems here. The first is that too many liberals feel that they have to respond in a maximal way to every possible incident of sexual harassment, partly to maintain their own woke credibility and partly because they want to make sure conservatives can’t accuse them of hypocrisy. The second problem is that we don’t seem to have any good way of talking proportionately about this stuff.

All I mean is this: Not all offenses are the same. Shoplifting is not as bad as grand theft. Assault is not as bad as murder. Saying this doesn’t imply approval of either shoplifting or assault; it’s merely a statement of uncontroversial fact. Likewise, not all sexual abuse is equal. Harvey Weinstein’s rap sheet includes dozens of accusations of groping, forced massages, and possibly rape. Louis C.K. masturbated in front of actresses multiple times. Roy Moore routinely chased after high school girls when he was in his 30s and appears to have aggressively assaulted at least two of them.

By contrast, Franken thought he was joking around but went farther than he should have. Once.¹ It’s no whitewash to say that this is a considerably lesser offense. But if the only response we have to any kind of sexual abuse is to insist on resignation from office and expulsion from public life—mostly to protect our own reputations—we are not acting with any sense of proportionality. We need to start. Listen to Leeann Tweeden, folks.

¹There’s allegedly a second accusation coming out later today, something that Roger Stone tweeted about last night. It is, for now, suspicious in the extreme and appears likely to be a conservative ratfuck. We’ll see.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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