Sexual Harassment, Now on Both Sides of the Political Aisle


NOVEMBER 16, 2017

Photo: AP

The number of prominent men who have been accused of sexual harassment grew on Thursday to include Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), the first Democratic legislator involved in the current focus on harassment in the workplace.

The accusation came from Los Angeles radio anchor Leeann Tweeden, who had worked with Franken in 2006 (before he became a Senator) on a USO tour of Afghanistan.  Tweeden alleges that Franken, who was the show’s headliner, had written some skits for the show, which included a scene in which Franken and Tweeden kiss.  When he wanted to rehearse the skit, she declined, whereupon Franken kissed her anyway, allegedly sticking his tongue in her mouth.  Near the end of the tour, Tweeden was sleeping when, smiling, Franken took a picture of himself touching her breasts.

Today, Franken immediately offered an apology to Tweeden, who accepted it at a news conference.  The Minnesota senator later expanded on his apology, adding

“The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.”

“But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.”

“For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.”

“I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.”

“And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”

Don’t get me wrong.  What Franken did was absolutely disgusting, demeaning and horribly wrong.  But in responding to the accusation, he showed far more contrition than GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who is accused of everything from underage dating to sexual battery and whose list of victims has now grown to nine and counting.  Instead of the Christian behavior he professes to embody, Moore’s reaction has been to attack, attack, attack.

Every one of his nine accusers is lying, according to the Moore camp, which claims that there is no evidence that any of these things happened.  There is, however, one piece of evidence — a high-school yearbook inscription to victim Beverly Young Nelson (whom Moore now claims to have never met), who was a waitress as a teen at the local Olde Hickory House restaurant (of which Moore now claims to be unfamiliar, even though numerous people have said he was a regular).  The inscription reads

“To a sweeter, more beautiful girl I could not say Merry Christmas.  Christmas, 1977.  Love, Roy Moore, D.A.  Olde Hickory House.”


The Moore camp, of course, claims that the inscription is obviously a forgery (even though it matches Moore’s signature exactly) and demands Nelson hand over her original piece of evidence to them so their own handwriting analysts can determine its authenticity.  Like that’ll happen.

Even worse (in the Dirty Tricks Department), there’s a phony robocall being sent to Alabama voters from an alleged Washington Post reporter named “Bernie Bernstein” (nonexistent of course, but the too-Jewish name adds a nice anti-Semitic touch) offering cash in exchange for scurrilous information on Roy Moore.  It’s enough to get any red-blooded right wing nut job to get out of his La-Z-Boy and vote for Moore.

For his part, Moore’s opponent in the race, Democrat Doug Jones, is playing this just right — let others do the dirty work and talk about 14 year-olds, which allows him to take the high road and offer himself as an alternative to Alabama voters.

Still, if asked to predict what’s going to happen, I suspect that Moore will tough out the sexual harassment claims (like Clarence Thomas and Bill Clinton), stay in the race and be elected by a small margin.  When he tries to be seated in the Senate, the Republicans (who have been threatening to expel him as soon as he takes the oath of office) will fold once again, and a child molester who believes homosexuality should be against the law will become the nation’s 100th Senator.

Mitch McConnell is facing a serious reckoning here, and, although he probably doesn’t realize it yet, his only way to avoid it is if Democrat Doug Jones wins the Alabama election on December 12.  Stay tuned.