Two More Women Say Al Franken Groped Them

More troubles for Minnesota Senator Al Franken.

al-franken-2008

In a story that dropped shortly before the end of the day on Wednesday, The Huffington Post is reporting that two more women have come forward to accuse Minnesota Senator Al Franken of groping them:

Two more women have told HuffPost that Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) touched their butts in separate incidents.

These are the third and fourth such allegations against Franken in the past week. Leeann Tweeden, a radio host, wrote last week that Franken had kissed and groped her without her consent during a 2006 USO tour. On Monday, Lindsay Menz

The two additional women, who said they were not familiar with each others’ stories, both spoke on condition of anonymity. But their stories, which describe events during Franken’s first campaign for the Senate, are remarkably similar — and both women have been telling them privately for years

In a statement to HuffPost, Franken said, “It’s difficult to respond to anonymous accusers, and I don’t remember those campaign events.”

The first woman, who spoke to HuffPost on condition of anonymity because she’s worried she’ll be harassed online for making the allegation, said Franken groped her when they posed for a photo after a June 25, 2007, event hosted by the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus in Minnea”My story is eerily similar to Lindsay Menz’s story,” the first woman said. “He grabbed my buttocks during a photo op.”

The second woman told HuffPost that Franken cupped her butt with his hand at a 2008 Democratic fundraiser in Minneapolis, then suggested the two visit the bathroom together. She spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear that the allegation could affect her position at work.

“My immediate reaction was disgust,” the second woman said. “But my secondary reaction was disappointment. I was excited to be there and to meet him. And so to have that happen really deflated me. It felt like: ‘Is this really the person who is going to be in a position of power to represent our community?'”

“I can categorically say that I did not proposition anyone to join me in any bathroom,” Franken told HuffPost.

It’s safe to say that when a politician has to issue a statement like that, their not in a very good situation at all. Ideally, there would not be any reports about any such propositioning. Additionally, while it’s possible that these types of accusations can be false or mistaken, the fact that we’re now dealing with similar accusations from four women about events that occurred within several years over other including both before and after Franken became a Senator suggests strongly that there is some truth to the accusations and that it’s likely that there are other women who have yet to come forward. In any case, these new accusations, even though they came over a weekend in which most Americans are unlikely to be paying much attention to politics, are likely to prove problematic for the Senator, especially since they all seem to be rather similar.

More from The Huffington Post

The first woman, a 38-year-old book editor who was living in Minneapolis at the time, told HuffPost that she had just finished performing with a feminist choir at the Women’s Political Caucus event, which Franken and his wife, Franni Bryson, attended. After the ceremony, she and other members of the choir approached him for photos.

“My mother loves Al Franken. She listened to Air America [on which Franken had a radio show] every day,” the first woman said. “I saw him and asked if we could take a photo together for my mother, and we stood next to each other … and down his hand went.”

HuffPost spoke to two sources close to the first woman who corroborated her account.

One fellow choir member, Sarah, remembers not only being there for the groping incident but hearing another choir member say that Franken wouldn’t stop looking at her chest.

Ten years ago, it was easier to shrug off predatory behavior as “boys being boys,” Sarah said, especially when that predatory behavior came from a political ally.

At the time … people weren’t as willing to speak against people they felt like were on their side,” Sarah said. “It’s really disappointing. And it’s crappy. Ten years ago we were also at an age where there was still a feeling of powerlessness, or that boys will be boys.”

The first woman’s best friend, who likewise wished to remain anonymous, remembers hearing about the groping incident the day after it happened.

“She was in this all-women’s choir and he was at an event where she performed, and she told me that he basically grabbed her ass,” the best friend said. “It was a ‘Can you believe this happened to me?’ kind of thing.

The first woman wanted to tell her story because Franken is “a serial groper,” she said.

“Only two people have come forward, and people are saying that this is a right-wing conspiracy,” she said. “It’s not. I’m a liberal person. … I voted for him after this happened.”

(…)

The second woman, who said she was groped at a fundraiser, told HuffPost it took place in the fall of 2008 at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. She was excited about attending the event and meeting someone she wanted to support.

“I had never attended anything like that,” she said.

She and her friends found Franken and introduced themselves to him.

“I shook his hand, and he put his arm around my waist and held it there,” the second woman said. “Then he moved it lower and cupped my butt.”

“I was completely mortified,” she added.

In order to escape the situation, the woman excused herself to go to the bathroom. At that point, she said, Franken leaned in and suggested that he accompany her. She grabbed her friend and fled to the bathroom without him.

The second woman told several people ― including one of the reporters for this story, Zachary Roth ― about the incident some years ago, but didn’t want it reported then. She said she didn’t tell anyone at the time of the incident because inappropriate behavior from men was not that unusual to her or her friends.

“Sexual harassment happens so often, you have to learn how to move on,” she said, describing her thinking at the time.

Several other factors also left her feeling powerless.

“I felt like I didn’t have a voice,” she said. “This man had all of the power, all of the authority. In addition, he is a white man and I am a woman of color. I was 21 years old. And I was afraid that he would use all of those privileges to discredit me, to make me feel even smaller than I already felt.”

Today, she said, she feels more confident, in part thanks to the flood of women who have come forward over the last month to share stories of sexual harassment by powerful men.

“I couldn’t see all these other women come forward and not walk the walk myself,” she said. “I wanted my report to be a way for other women to say, ‘Yes, that happened to me and I don’t have to be afraid.'”

As noted, this isn’t the first report about sexually improper behavior on Franken’s part. The first report came earlier this month when a Los Angeles news anchor who was part of a USO tour that Franken headed in 2005 before he became a candidate for office said that she was the victim of inappropriate conduct on Franken’s part. In that case the anchor, Leann Tweeden said that Franken forced his tongue down her throat while the two were rehearsing a skit in which he was supposed to kiss her and she also produced a photograph that seems to show Franken grabbing or appearing to grab her breasts while she was asleep during a flight while on the tour.  Franken initially responded to that report by saying he didn’t remember the incident the way that Tweeden did, but followed that statement up with an apology that appears to acknowledge that the incident did unfold in the manner she claims. In the second report, a woman named Lindsay Menz said that Franken groped her in much the same manner as the two women claim in this Huffington Post report while her husband took a photograph of the two at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010 after Franken became a Senator. This now makes four accusers pointing a finger at Franken, suggesting that as with other prominent men who have found themselves caught up in the emerging cycle of women coming forward to talk about incidents of sexual harassment or abuse that happened in the past, a trend that started with  Persons such as Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and actors such as Kevin Spacey and George Takei. It also comes amid similar reports of women who have come forward to talk about similar conduct by people such as political pundit Mark Halperin as well as accusations that such activity has been common on Capitol Hill for years. For example, California Congresswoman Jackie Spier, who recently shared her own story of having been sexually harassed in the past, stated that she is aware of at least two currently serving men on Capitol Hill, one from each party, who have been accused of sexually inappropriate contact toward female staffers or other women.  It has also inspired the #MeToo campaign that has been popular on Twitter in the time since the Weinstein story broke as a way for women to share their own stories have having been sexually harassed or groped in either a professional or some other context. Most infamous, of course, have been the accusations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, but these are in a category all their own given that they involve potentially criminal activity such as sexual assault of a minor while he was an Assistant District Attorney in the 1970s.

All of this has left Franken in something of a politically precarious position. A poll taken after the first two reports about the Senator, for example, showed that only 22% of Minnesotans said he should resign, while 30% said he should resign immediately and 36% said that decision should await the results of an investigation. In that regard, it’s already been announced that the Senate Ethics Committee will be investigating the charges against Franken, although it’s unclear when that investigation will begin or how long it will take. It’s also not clear what will happen to Franken’s committee assignments during the time the investigation is pending. In the past, it hasn’t been uncommon for members of the House or Senate to be be temporarily suspended from certain committee assignments while ethics investigations have taken place, though, so it’s possible this could happen here. At the same time, it’s worth noting that the Senate Ethics Committee has often be criticized for being ‘toothless,” leading Meredith McGhee, and opinion writer at The Hill to call it a committee a “black hole.” All of this led Franken to take the somewhat unusual step of issuing a statement yesterday addressing the new claims and responding to questions about his political future:

WASHINGTON - Sen. Al Franken plans to stay in the U.S. Senate and try to win back Minnesotans’ trust.

The Minnesota Democrat, who has been accused by four women — two of them anonymously — of inappropriate contact, issued a Thanksgiving afternoon apology and pledge. He wrote that he “feels terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly.” He called himself “a warm person” who likes to hug people when they’re being photographed with him, but clearly, his embrace “crossed a line for some women.”

Although his statement did not directly address the question of whether he might resign, he vowed to move ahead with an effort to regain the trust of his constituents. A spokesman for Franken said Thursday that the senator has no plans to resign.

The accusations, which have left Franken facing a Senate ethics investigation, have touched off a fierce debate among his progressive supporters over what level of sexual misconduct should force a politician with a record of support for women’s rights to resign from office.

“Because he happens to be a good guy on some other issues, people are confused,” said Erin Vilardi, head of VoteRunLead, a national group that aims to elect more women to public office. It held a national convention in Minneapolis last weekend.

Vilardi spoke after the first two accusations against Franken and before Wednesday’s Huffington Post report of the third and fourth allegations. The website cited two unidentified women who said he grabbed their buttocks in separate incidents. Each spoke on condition of anonymity about events they said occurred during Franken’s first Senate run.

(…)

In Thursday evening’s statement, the senator wrote:

“I’ve met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations. I’m a warm person; I hug people. I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many.

“Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that. I’ve thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again.

“And let me say again to Minnesotans that I’m sorry for putting them through this and I’m committed to regaining their trust.”

Where all this leads is unclear at this point. The initial poll numbers for Franken out of Minnesota don’t look good, but he doesn’t have to run for re-election until 2020 unless forced from office so it’s possible he’ll just true to ride this out. At the very least, though, this would seem to indicate that the previous speculation about Franken being a potential 2020 candidate for the Democratic nomination for President will come to an end, probably permanently. Whether it goes further than that depends on how the investigation goes and whether it goes further than these for women.

 

FILED UNDER: Congress, Gender Issues, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    An interesting analysis of the right-wing and Russian bot (but I repeat myself) spreading of the initial claims against Franken.

    She concludes thusly:

    Here is the dangerous plank the Alt-Right Propaganda Machine is ruthlessly forcing us to walk down. How can the left, after screaming from the hills to “always believe the women” turn around and say:

    – What if she conspired with the worst propagandists in America to disseminate this story? Can we ask if that makes her less credible?

    – What if KABC is owned, in part, by the Mercers? Can we ask if that makes the lack of editorial oversight suspect?

    – What if she’s appeared as a Hannity panelist arguing for Obama to release his birth certificate? Can we ask if she has political motives?

    – What if taking a crass photo is now comparable to molesting 14-year-old girls? Can we argue that democrats are, once again, walking right into the trap?

  2. Paul L. says:

    @Mikey:
    She is Right
    The Duke Lacrosse/UVA Frat gang rape apologists by smearing victims that will not defend Al Franken because of Politics.

  3. wr says:

    @Paul L.: Apparently your Russian-to-English translator isn’t working. Might want to try a new one.

    (Here’s a horrifying thought — what if Paul L actually is a native English speaker and this is simply his level of illiteracy. It would explain his politics, but too sad for words.)

  4. Kylopod says:
  5. Gustopher says:

    I’m grumpy this morning. Franken should resign as soon as Trump does — there are credible accusations against both of them.

  6. Mikey says:

    @Paul L.: Honered tapp unpresidented! COVFEFE!

  7. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    Can we argue that democrats are, once again, walking right into the trap?

    You can….if you want a bunch of downvotes.

    Don’t forget: Dems are not only righteous, they’re also blameless.

  8. Paul L. says:

    The Russians were behind The Duke Lacrosse/UVA Frat gang rape cases getting covered up.

  9. Mikey says:

    @Paul L.: It’s sort of amazing that even though your guitar only has the one string, you still play like shit.

  10. HarvardLaw92 says:

    $100 says this goes absolutely nowhere and Franken is still sitting in the Senate a year from now. Worst case outcome he gets censured by the Senate, and that’s worst case.

    People forget that he’s not up for reelection in 2018. He’s seated until 2020 unless he resigns, which is what I suspect one of the goals is here. Muddy the water with respect to Moore’s behavior, and maybe open up a seat for competition that wasn’t in play. It’s standard issue American politics in the modern era.

    The first thing that anybody who has ever been involved with law enforcement will tell you is this: when everybody’s stories aren’t just similar, but nearly identical, especially in the case of anonymous accusers, you had better start looking for credibility and coordination problems.

    Because you’re going to get blindsided by them if you don’t.

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Mikey:

    Why, it’s almost as if this whole thing was coordinated beforehand … 😀

    (see above)

  12. Ben Wolf says:

    @Mikey: The post to which you link relies on a man named Clint Watts, who is a right-wing lunatic with zero experience regarding Russia, to prove Al Franken’s gorilla-like behavior is a Russian plot. The Alliance for Securing Democracy is not a trustworthy source for anything, because the group refuses to reveal the handful of accounts it claims to have identified as part of the Vast Russian Conspiracy or to discuss how it makes such a determination.

    Believing anything this group says is no different from believing InfoWars.

  13. MBunge says:

    @James Pearce:

    This isn’t really a Democrat thing. I mean, does anyone who read HarvardLaw92 before he jumped on the anti-Trump train believe he’s a Democrat?

    This is at heart a class thing. How could David Vitter admit to actual criminal behavior in 2007 and not only get re-elected to the Senate but go on to mount a credible campaign for governor? How do the very hosts of this blog think they can hold up credibly alleged war criminal George W. Bush as a moral authority criticizing Trump? How can a sitting U.S. Senator be on trial for federal corruption charges and almost the entire national media, including two 24/7 cable news channels desperate to fill air time, almost entirely ignore the story for 11 weeks?

    Mike

  14. wr says:

    @MBunge: Good ol’ Mbunge, always looking out for the little folk. Yes, it’s those horrible elites who believe that attempting to rape children should disqualify one from the Senate. But real Americans like Mbunge know that this is pure snobbery!

  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    What does any of that have to do with what is clearly a coordinated political attack?

    Bullshit is bullshit, and this smells like bullshit. Spare me the whataboutism.

  16. Mikey says:

    @Ben Wolf: I did some looking around the ‘net about Watts, and I really didn’t find much to support your claims he’s comparable to InfoWars. One piece I found on Alternet condemned him strongly, but read like it was written by Julian Assange himself. Not much to go on there, I’m afraid.

    Still, it’s always a good idea to meet sensational claims with some skepticism, so thanks for the heads-up. I wasn’t as familiar with Watts before, and should have been.

  17. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @MBunge: Yeah, he’s always been a Democrat. He’s one with the same biases about poor people (and especially poor blacks) that I’ve seen frequently in top-tier income Democrats and Republicans alike, but that’s why he took a tour in the Fed prosecutor schtick before putting on his white shoes and seersucker summer suit.

  18. rachel says:

    In that regard, it’s already been announced that the Senate Ethics Committee will be investigating the charges against Franken…

    Good.

  19. Tyrell says:

    @rachel: Who’s next? These reports are coming out so often about different they are no longer causing a stir.

  20. John430 says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Typical leftist response…Democrats are blameless because-shut up.

  21. barbintheboonies says:

    @rachel: That will go nowhere.

  22. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @John430:

    I never cease to be amazed at your ability to read something, completely ignore what it actually says, and come away with some strawman you’ve constructed which bears no resemblance to what you’ve read.