Facing sexual assault allegations, Al Franken forces Democrats to confront the fact that sexual abuse isn’t a partisan issue

A lot of my male heroes have been assholes. Dr. Seuss, they say, was a philandering bigot. John Lennon, by all accounts, was abusive. J. D. Salinger and Charlie Chaplin preyed on young women. And, as we know, Thomas Jefferson actually bought and sold human beings, at least one of whom he had sexual relations with. And, somehow, like many of us, I suspect, I’ve developed ways to navigate the cognitive dissonance, telling myself that the stories might not be true, excusing the behavior as simply being reflective of the time, and shutting out evidence to the contrary. Because, really, once you accept that one of the men you most admire made a conscious decision to enslave human beings, even though he knew it to be a “moral depravity,” where does that leave you? How do you reconcile the fact that the men you most admire were assholes, and the country you love was built on a foundation of exploitation, subjugation and violence? Do you simple start over, erasing the past, or do you accept the past, learn as much as you can from it, and move on? It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, as we’ve discussed the tearing down on monuments, and as these once hugely important foundational pieces of American popular culture, like the Cosby Show, have essentially been erased.

And it’s not just a matter of the distant past. These things are happening in real time. Every day, it seems, there’s another powerful man being exposed as a predatory sex offender. Thankfully, I learned my lesson some time ago thanks to John Edwards, so, as a rule, I no longer look up to anyone who’s still alive. Sure, it would break my heart if I read that Elizabeth Warren, Bill Moyers or Barack Obama had mistreated anyone, but, aside from that, I can’t really say that I’d be too surprised. So, with that said, I wasn’t completely shocked when the following photo of Democratic Senator Al Franken crossed my desk this afternoon… Looking at it, I just wondered, “Does every man who attains any level of fame or power in this country just become an asshole, or is it that everyone who strives for fame and power already has it within him?”

As for specifics in the Franken case, it would seem, according to his accuser, a woman by the name of Leeann Tweeden, that Franken, during a 2006 USO tour to entertain the troops in the Middle East, not only posed for the above photo with her, as she slept aboard an airplane, but also “forcibly kissed” her while rehearsing a bit that they’d be doing for their show.

I’m not going to debate what Franken may or may not have done, or get into how much worse Roy Moore’s crimes may have been. I’m not going to defend Franken by saying, as others have, that he might not have actually been touching her in the photo, but hovering just centimeters above her, in the so-called “friend zone”. As far as I’m concerned, what he did is wrong regardless, and there should be an investigation. And, thankfully, it would appear that Franken agrees. In a letter released today, the Senator, after apologizing to Tweeden, and saying that the photo was “intended to be funny,” added, “I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.” Franken then went on to say, “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… I have let them down and I am committed to making it up to them.” Here’s the letter in full.

People have asked me why I haven’t written more about this wave of women coming forward to tell their stories of sexual assault, and, the truth is, I’m just not sure that I have anything valuable to say on the subject. But maybe, I’m coming to realize, that’s not the point. Maybe, right now, it’s enough for everyone to just restate the obvious, which is that it’s never appropriate as men to engage in this kind of behavior toward women.

The idea isn’t fully formed in my mind yet, but I do have one observation to share… which is that this wave of women we’re now seeing come forward to share their stories of sexual harassment, parallels to a great extent the flood of cell phone videos shared by black Americans over the past few years, offering a glimpse into the way they experience American law enforcement. In both instances, others are being invited in, perhaps for the first time in their lives, to experience a very specific kind of ugliness that dominant culture has successfully kept below the surface of polite society for centuries. But it’s all being laid bare right now. And I think that’s a good thing. Or at least it has the potential to be a good thing, assuming we act on it.

It may take a while, as I have no doubt that the forces of Trumpism will push back, but, like Theodore Parker said, the arc of the moral universe “bends towards justice,” and I think, culturally speaking, we’re mid-stride in a huge evolutionary step. America is changing, and this is all part of that change. The Women’s March of Washington wasn’t a fluke. America, like it or not, is getting more diverse, and women are coming to the fore. Just look at the election results from last week, where women and people of color won in unprecedented numbers against old, white, male incumbents. So, no, I’m not at all surprised that we’re hearing these stories from women now, just as I wasn’t surprised by the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. These are conversations that have to happen before we can move on as a country, and we’re clearly ready to move on.

One last thing about Franken before we move on, though. And I hope, when I say this, I don’t sound as completely out of my mind as Roy Moore did the other night, when he told Sean Hannity to look at the way the “7”s were written in Beverly Young-Nelson’s yearbook comment attributed to him, as though that would somehow prove that he couldn’t have choked her and thrown her from his car when she was 16… Does anyone find it interesting that Roger Stone appears to have known that this story about Franken was coming out before anyone else? Could it be that Stone, a master of political dirty tricks, somehow found out about this photo’s existence and helped orchestrate this to take some of the attention away from Roy Moore, Donald Trump, the Russia investigation, and the Republican tax plan? I wouldn’t discount the idea. Franken’s accuser is, after all, a media personality with ties to Fox and Hannity… which isn’t, of course, to say that Franken isn’t still culpable for his actions. Even if the “forced kiss” is being exaggerated, Franken still took the photo, and it’s still wrong. And, just like Donald Trump, Roy Moore, and every other politician accused of sexual harassment, and worse, Franken needs to be fully investigated. This is a test for us Democrats, an opportunity for us to prove that sexual harassment is a nonpartisan issue, and we need to treat cases exactly the same, regardless of whether the accused perpetrator votes with us or against us.

So, as we wait for these investigations to get underway, I’ve got a question for you. Are you able to put aside what you know about Michael Jackson, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, and enjoy Thriller, Zelig, and Chinatown? And, if so, do you feel horribly bad about it?

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  1. Keith Olbermann‏ by proxy
    Posted November 16, 2017 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    So she reveals the conduct, he apologizes, she accepts the apology, doesn’t want him to resign, and he wants a formal Ethics Investigation of his own conduct. All in one day – rather than everybody stonewalling and/or taking immovable stances.

  2. puzzled pawn
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    Hey man, sometimes we do bad things. And sometimes we do good. And sometimes, from something very bad comes something very, very good. That’s a very ordinary bummer.

  3. Bob
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    The taking down of creative people is troubling. There is no excuse for the actions of the Weinstein’s of the world. That guy should be in prison. Louis CK? Probably unforgivable.

    Franken? I don’t know. Should he be run out of office for bad behavior while doing free USO work as a comedian and private citizen? Probably sleep-deprived and punchy on a plane. Juvenile and unfunny to be sure. The kissing bit is totally creepy. But where does it end? Do we start clamping down on every writer in a writing room who is spitballing ideas? Where’s the line? We might end up with nothing but Amy Grant and Touched By An Angel for entertainment. I’m pretty sure every musician or creative person I ever liked wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny.

    Where would we be on this issue if Hillary had been elected? The woman who enabled one of the greatest pigs of all time. Sen Kristen Gillibrand is top of the news cycle this morning on that point.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    I’m willing to forgive Franken on this. Is that because his politics align with mine, or because, relatively speaking, his crime is less egregious than the others we’ve been discussing? Or is it maybe because he immediately apologized and requested an investigation instead of just pushing back Trump and Moore? My guess is that it’s a combination of the three. I am certain, though, that had the same actions attributed to Moore been attributed to Franken that I would be demanding his resignation.

  5. JM
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I have no idea how Woody Allen hasn’t been publicly disgraced and removed from film – years ago or today. That’s a joke.

    It was a fine piece until the political conspiracy spin near the end. Didn’t really need that.

  6. Demetrius
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    It seems increasingly evident that guys like Weinstein, Cosby, Spacey, etc., were serial abusers who routinely used their status and power to take advantage of those who were more vulnerable – so I’m glad to see their behavior has been exposed, and that they are now suffering serious professional and other (including possible legal) consequences.

    Then, we have guys like Louis C.K., whose behavior – while creepy, gross, and clearly inappropriate – may not have been technically illegal, or even strictly speaking “assault.” In these cases, it seems that public shaming, and subsequent damage their professional careers, is likely to end up being their “punishment.”

    That said (and from what I know so far) it seems inappropriate to place Franken’s behavior in either category. While what he appears to have done may have been crude, adolescent, and poorly considered, does it really rise to – or belong in – the same category as some of these others? Would someone who is seriously intent on abusing, assaulting, or intimidating another person do so in public, while mugging for the camera, and while wearing a goofy grin? Does a man who, as a legislator, has a enviable track record of championing women’s issues, end up getting lumped in with the despicable Roy Moore merely because of one goofy photo? Is it possible that this “revelation” about Franken is merely political retribution .. and that we are likely to see more of these stories (on both sides of the aisle) in the coming days and weeks?

    I doubt there is anybody reading this blog – male or female – who hasn’t said or done something they regret or wish they could take back. If we are going to end up calling out and publicly shaming ANYONE who’s ever done anything untoward, it is going to take a l-o-n-g time … and, in the process, we’ll likely end up dragging a lot of basically decent people through the mud … while glossing over and/or diminishing the importance of the serious, habitual abusers who most deserve to be exposed.

    Those who routinely and habitually abuse their power and status to take advantage of others deserve to be named, and shamed. But I’m afraid the more people who get swept up – and the less and less significant their alleged incidents end up being – the more this is beginning to take on the flavor of a witch hunt, rather than a genuine moment of reflection, atonement, and positive cultural change.

    Every day now my news feed is filled with a steady stream of new allegations, accusations, explanations and denials involving a multitude of bold-face names … Meanwhile, legislators in Washington are busy rushing through unprecedented tax breaks designed to reward already super-wealthy individuals and multinational corporations, dismantling affordable healthcare, undoing decades worth of environmental, public safety, and consumer protections, and issuing bellicose statements that are ramping up the risk of war.

    There is only so much time … and so much public attention “bandwidth.”

    What matters most, and where should we be focusing our attention and anger?

  7. Jean Henry
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Demetrius– Franken has been accused of forcibly kissing the woman without consent and then harassing her when she rebuffed him and THEN posing for the picture. No one here, via speculation is going to figure out what really happened. You have no information to determine that. Your speculation is simply a reflection of your beliefs, nothing more.

    Most sexual violence, harassment, inappropriate touching could qualify as ‘a mistake.’ It’s systemic. There are pictures because it;s been culturally sanctioned. This moment is about most sexual violence. It’s not perpetrated by strangers. Our assaulters are people we know, work with, live with. I’m pretty sure none of them ‘meant’ to do it or understood the harm.

    This stuff– all of it– happens all the time. All the fucking time. That’s the whole point. And women finally have the power and agency to say enough. And so we are doing so. This is not about moralistic. This is about making boundaries very very clear. It’s not confusing. Men are just confused. Just ask for permission and take no for an answer, Dumbasses

    There are men being held accountable and a lot more men not ever being held accountable. Who they are is kind of random. That may seem unfair to you if you are only thinking about the experience of those dudes and not the victims. People felt compelled to defend the catholic church too.

    In no way am I saying that there are no false accusations. There are always a proportion of false accusations, and I’m certain this cultural moment will bring some examples. though Senator Franken does not seem to be it. What is worth paying attention to is not the individual examples (we aren’t a court) but the sheer mass of accusation. These aren’t bad giys, they are normal fucking guys. And some of what has been normal behavior, women want to stop. And they have the power to move the cultural needle away from serial abuse.

    Not all of this is even a crime. Not all assertions of power are a crime but they still have impact. And we want it to stop. Think of it as a public health campaign. We don’t smoke or drink and drive as much, because there was a social cost that outweighed the liberty. Ask for consent before touching and accept no for an answer. This isn’t anti-sex. It’s about making it much better and more free. The whole range of unwanted touch/talk/commentary that women are subjected on a regular basis and from a very young age puts a huge damper on the real thing.

    Being liberal or radical left does not mean you respect women more than any given moderate or conservative. This issue is not inherently about politics.

  8. Bob
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Jean, what about your defend at all costs fave, Hillary Clinton? Old Bill is probably only marginally less criminal than Harvey Weinstein on this point. Lord only knows what he and his buddy Harv may have gotten up to together. But Hillary stood by that guy for decades. Presumably for her own political aspirations. By all accounts they pretty much stopped occupying the same residence as soon as they left the White House.

  9. Jean Henry
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I have never defended Bill Clinton’s behavior. I never have liked the guy. I don’t know what HRC’s role was in dealing with Lewinsky etc or if she acted to cover up etc. I would not be surprised if she was unethical at the time. As far as I know, she did not forcibly assault anyone. My primary concern is the issue of consent. I think I’ve made that abundantly clear. My support for HRC was not unqualified, but I’m also not a moral absolutist. She has worked to improve the lives of women and children for decades. I have heard her speak on the issue of assault and consent and believe she understands the issue a lot more clearly than most people here.

    I believe this issue is systemic. If you look back, I have never supported the scapegoating of individual assailants as any way to address systemic issues. Lots of women speaking at once IS a really effective way of harnessing the collective to say, “Dudes! Stop it. That hurts!” The calling out (no arrests etc) of poor and possibly illegal behavior seems like a pretty low bar to ask to be set.

    We are all complicit in systemic issues. All of us. Let’s just talk about respecting bodily agency and taking no for an answer. Good boundaries do not make sex worse. I don;t know why everyone is not right now at this moment, from simple self-interest, saying ‘free sex and our sexual experience from abuse!” It’s not rocket science or moralistic and it’s got nothing to do with politics.

  10. Donald Trump weighs in
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    If I were Trump, I’d think twice before wading into these waters.

    “The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?” -President Donald Trump


  11. Bob
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    It’s an unfortunate development. I think many of us saw Franken as perhaps the Dems best hope in an obviously celebrity fixated culture. He just seemed like the smartest guy in the field. Not smart enough though. It’s also unfortunate that you can’t really question the motives of a victim in these cases. Some people are questioning this woman’s ties to Sean Hannity and motivation for coming forward now. It sorta seems like a hit job. But he obviously did what she said. No excuse for his actions. I’m personally fed up with all of them. I might be done voting for candidates outside of local county officials and for proposals that directly affect my town. I’m just sick of the two party system.

  12. Kit
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    FWIW Infowars also predicted that something was coming out about Franken.


  13. R. Thomas
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    The best response yet to the Trump tweet about Franken was this from Tony Schwartz‏.

    “Not a word from Trump about Roy Moore, accused by 8 women of being a child molester. He lashes out at Al Franken for something vastly less serious. And he flat out denies the stories of 16 women who have accused him of sexual assault.”

  14. Meta
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    The Atlantic: “The Deepening Partisan Split Over Sexual Misconduct”

    Earlier this week, New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait asked his fellow liberals to imagine that Roy Moore were a Democrat. “It’s easy to feel superior about this when opposition to grotesque treatment of teenage girls lines up neatly with your own party’s well-being,” he wrote. “If you’re a liberal, ask yourself what you would do if the circumstances were reversed.”

    Thanks to Al Franken, we can now answer that question better. The details of each man’s offense differ: Moore is accused of pursuing teenager girls while he was in his 30s, and two women have accused him of sexual assaulting them when they were teenagers. Leeann Tweeden, a broadcaster for KABC in Los Angeles, said Franken kissed and groped her without her consent. Still, each party’s reaction is telling. Each is split, but in opposite ways.

    In the GOP, the people taking the harshest line against Moore are congressional leaders like Mitch McConnell. They want Moore to withdraw from his senate race largely because they fear Democrats will use him to tar other Republican candidates as sexist, as they did in 2012 when Todd Akin, the GOP’s Senate candidate in Missouri, said it was impossible for women to get pregnant from “legitimate rape.” But McConnell and company have been stymied by local Alabama Republicans—and Donald Trump-supporting media personalities like Steve Bannon and Sean Hannity—who won’t abandon Moore. In the GOP, it’s the Washington establishment that wants Moore gone. Grassroots activists and the right-wing media want him to stay.

    In the Democratic Party—so far—it’s largely the reverse. As of Thursday night, not a single Democratic Senator had called on Franken to resign. While decrying his behavior, they’ve mostly called for an investigation by the congressional Ethics Committee, which isn’t all that punitive given that the committee—as The Atlantic’s Elaine Godfrey has noted—has “not issued disciplinary sanctions against anyone in nine years.”

    The pressure on Franken to resign is coming from the bottom up. While Alabama Republican politicians have stuck with Moore despite pressure from Washington, in the Democratic Party, it’s local Minnesota Democrats who are demanding that Franken go. On Thursday, Minnesota State Auditor, and gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto called on Franken to resign. So did Megan Thomas, who runs the Minnesota party’s Feminist Caucus.

    Prominent liberal journalists are also urging Franken to resign. New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg has said he must leave the Senate. So has Marc Joseph Stern in Slate, and a host of liberal celebrities. (For her part, Tweeden has said she accepts Franken’s apology.)

    Both parties are divided between people who are reacting politically and people who are reacting ideologically. In the GOP, the politically minded—who run the congressional Republican Party—want Moore to go because they fear his impact on the party’s chances next fall. But the ideologically minded Alabama conservatives—and the media personalities who influence them—want Moore to stay in the race because they see the attack on him as part of a broader assault by the liberal media. The steering committee of the Alabama Republican Party is standing behind Moore. And in so doing, it likely represents the view of conservative Alabamans as a whole. A JMC Analytics poll taken between November 9 and 11 found that 37 percent of self-described evangelicals in Alabama actually said the charges against Moore made them more likely to vote for him compared to only 28 percent who said the charges made them less likely to. Moore’s supporters see the attacks on him as part of a culture war, which they’re determined to wage even if costs their party seats.

    In the Democratic Party, by contrast, the politically minded—Charles Schumer and company—don’t want to imperil a safe Senate seat if they don’t have to. Ideologically minded liberals, by contrast, fear that letting Franken stay in his job will make it easier for other sexual harassers to escape punishment. If Franken stays, writes Goldberg, “The current movement toward unprecedented accountability for sexual harassers will probably start to peter out. Republicans, never particularly eager to hold their own to account, will use Franken to deflect from more egregious abuse on their own side.” For Goldberg, sustaining the post-Weinstein cultural and moral reckoning is more important than ensuring a Democratic seat in the senate.

    The Moore and Franken battles constitute yet more evidence that the bases of the two parties are even more polarized than their leaders in Washington. In dealing with sexual harassment, congressional Democratic and Republican leaders aren’t that far apart. Both see eruptions like Moore and Franken’s as political problems to be managed so they don’t hurt the party as a whole. The larger gulf is between grassroots liberal activists who want to change men’s behavior, no matter the political fallout, and conservative activists who see sexual harassment claims against Republicans as a conspiracy by the liberal media.

    Read more:

  15. Meta
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Leeann Tweeden reading Al Franken’s apology letter on The View.


  16. Jean Henry
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    The veracity of the accusers is questioned all the time, Bob. I don’t know where your cant comes from. In this case there’s a photo, and Franken didn’t deny it. Was it weaponized by the right, Sure? So were the Moore allegations weaponized by the left for political ends. We saw it all here. None of that means the allegations are untrue. None of this is unusual. There will be many more of all political stripes. I have no idea what the two party system has to do with any of this. In the end, the point is defining very clearly the scale of the problem and the need for consent. It’s very common sense and not that complicated. Like feminism. The complication comes from the squirming and discomfort. It’s temporary. Growing pains.

    My guess is Franken will be re-elected. A presidential run may be off the table though. Hard to know now. That seems like such a minor piece of all of this.

  17. Kevin
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Franken needs to resign, and I’m guessing a whole lot of other democrats would as well. Treating women like shit is a bipartisan cultural tradition.

    Looked at another way, if this had been known while Franken was barely winning one of the closest elections in history, we would never have had a Senator Franken in the first place.

  18. Demetrius
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    @ Kit

    Thanks for this important information.

    As I suspected, this appears to be a political hit, designed to change the conversation and distract attention away from Moore, etc.

    Franken’s accuser has already shared her side of the story, but he still deserves due process, be that an Ethics Committee investigation, or something similar. In the meantime, all the hand-wringing, finger-waving, and outright calls for him to resign or be expelled from the Senate by those on the left – without having all, or even most of the facts – are simply playing into the hands of the political operators whose desire is to deepen divisions and distract us from the unprecedented looting of national resources that’s going on in Washington D.C. every single day.

  19. Jean Henry
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Demetrius– I checked and don’t see many calls for resignation on the left. There are two people in a competing third party in Minnesota who have said that. Some celebrities on the right. A few feminists, rhetorically, saying just get rid of all of them then. It seems most people are content to see it all play out. A larger pattern would be more problematic on Franken’s part. Meanwhile, my primary concern is that we focus on the truly enormous pattern of normalized sexual harassment and assault. This, for me at least, is not about a purge of all abusers. It’s about having meaningful consequence along a spectrum attached to sexual violations strong enough to reduce them. And public disclosure and censure is a consequence.
    I’m relieved to see some men acknowledging their own behavior and the prevalence of the pattern.
    Since the pattern crosses all parties, meaningful consequences are unlikely to hurt one party more than another.

  20. Bob
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    It sure clears the way for Hillary to take another stab at it

  21. M
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    From today NYT opinion page: “I would mourn Franken’s departure from the Senate, but I think he should go, and the governor should appoint a woman to fill his seat. The message to men in power about sexual degradation has to be clear: We will replace you.”

  22. someone on facebook
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of Hillary’s treatment of Bill’s alleged victims, did any of you see the article titled “The Clintons held the Democratic Party hostage for 2 decades — and the sudden revisionism is inconveniently late”?


    As some liberals have come to realize in recent days that a president having sex with a White House intern is a very bad thing that shouldn’t be waved off, some conservative commentators have carped that this timing is awfully convenient — Democrats are only discarding the Clintons once they weren’t needed anymore.

    This is wrong. This timing is decidedly inconvenient.

    It would have been much more convenient for the Democratic Party to jettison the Clintons years ago. There would probably even be a Democratic president right now…..

  23. Jcp2
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Maybe it’s just happening now because the social norms have shifted enough that it can come up now. After all, it’s more than American politics that has been affected. The May government in Britain has really been hit, and they have to deal with Brexit. The entertainment industry will be substantially different in a year. Robert Ailes was humiliated and disgraced before he died.

  24. Iron Lung
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    As far as I remember, the problem with Clinton wasn’t that he had sex with an intern, it was that he lied about it.

    I’m not defending having sex with interns of Clinton’s sexual habits, but the bigger issue was that he lied under oath, a far more serious crime for a sitting President.

    As for “due process,” has Leanna Tweeden pressed charges? Due process is only for those who have been accused of a crime. As for the the ethics proceedings, note that he did not become a Senator until 2009. This occurred in 2006 and, on the surface, no evidence that he tried to cover anything up, so I’m not sure where an ethics investigation would go.

    Democrats are calling for “due process” and ethics proceedings against Franken but, in my opinion, while revolting and unacceptable, this is not nearly comparable to what Roy Moore did, which is not only unethical, but possibly illegal, and some of which happened while he was an assistant DA.

    So, liberals need to learn to be able to parse out what’s legal or not legal and pick their battles. Too often, liberals eat their own, cutting off their nose to spite their own faces.

    Now, I’m not in any way defending or excusing immoral sexual behavior, to get that out of the way.

  25. Iron Lung
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    It is interesting, though, that this Lewinsky case keeps being brought up. Yes, Clinton should not have done it, but there isn’t really any evidence that the relationship was anything but consensual. Lewinsky herself has said this.

    I think what is interesting is that, while the United States is very rightly concerned with women being taking advantage of by the powerful, that the United States, and particularly liberals, would be so quickly to discredit the agency of women who engage in sexual behavior. The broad assumption seems to be that women cannot freely choose their sexual partners. I find that to be a disturbing assumption.

  26. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Regarding the “forcible kiss”. They were rehearsing for a skit where there was a kiss scene. He asked if they could practice the kiss. She said “okay”. He initiated a kiss. She did not like it. She expressed she did not like it and it went no further. What am i missing?

  27. Tommy Chong via Twitter
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Just realized Al Franken trolled Trump! Got him to comment on sexual abuse. Opened that door!

  28. XXX
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Whatever we decide to do about Franken, just know that he will not be the last. There may be many seats to fill by the time the Reckoning has drawn to a close.

  29. Lynne
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    IronLung, The Lewinsky case may be a good example of how powerful men can take advantage of women with less power in the workplace or school or whatever. I see it as similar to a professor having sex with a student. It may be entirely consensual but the power dynamic is such that it is still inappropriate.

    There is a spectrum of inappropriateness here. I have been a little disturbed by people’s failure to see that. It ranges from mildly inappropriate to freaking evil with Franken on the mildly inappropriate side and Moore’s conduct with minors closer to the freaking evil side. When people start treating Franken’s actions with those of Moore or Trump, it really worries me that people aren’t understanding how really horrible it is for men like Moore or Trump to rape underage women. I don’t want to trivialize Leeana Tweeden’s experience either but I guess I am just frustrated with the black and white thinking I am seeing.

    I don’t think Franken should resign. I think his statement indicates that he understands what he did was wrong and why it was wrong. He seems sincere in his apology. He is still a good person and as Jean mentioned, that is part of the issue. We have allowed good people to violate boundaries. We do people a disservice by not making those boundaries clear. It is time to make them clear. It is time for us to move towards a society where this kind of sexually dominant behavior is not ok. I think that is happening. I think there is room to hold people accountable *and* still have forgiveness and redemption. I think we can also believe the victims and treat them well too.

    This is all so normal as Jean mentions. There was some drama last week within a friend group where one guy got drunk and stumbled into a campsite where he approached three women to ask for sex and actually unzipped the tent of one of them and woke her up by putting his hand on her inner thigh. The ensuing drama has been so typical of rape culture. Even though three women reported that this guy was super drunk and inappropriate, he wasn’t asked to leave the event they were attending. When the woman who reported that the guy entered her tent left the gathering, there was some incident at a Starbucks where she was physically assaulted by one of the man’s female friends. People are calling her a liar even though two other women are backing up her story. They are harassing her on social media.

    It is the same old same old. It actually was refreshing to see Franken own up to it and apologize because that is not the typical response.

  30. Iron Lung
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    ” The Lewinsky case may be a good example of how powerful men can take advantage of women with less power in the workplace or school or whatever. ”

    She was an adult at the time and, outside of life regrets, seems to have had no problem with it in the end. Who are we to judge?

    That people have sex outside of marriage and that couples aren’t always the same age shouldn’t be a shocker. I was in Japan at the time. People there couldn’t understand what the problem was. Honestly, I couldn’t either.

    That they both lied about it is another matter entirely.

    As for Franken, I have no idea what to think except that it’s distracting everyone from the fact that a child rapist is about to become Senator of Alabama.

  31. Lynne
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Iron Lung. It wasn’t that they weren’t the same age although that can be part of it. It was that he was her *boss*. It is inappropriate. That is why so many companies have policies about managers having sexual relationships with subordinates and why so many colleges have policies about professors having sexual relationships with students. It was wrong of Bill to take advantage of that power dynamic. It wasn’t so wrong as to be illegal. It probably wasn’t so wrong that his affair with Lewinsky would keep me from voting for HIM again if that were to come up.

    But fwiw, I think for the most part when people talk about Bill Clinton’s sexual misdeeds, they usually are not referring to Lewinsky but rather to other incidents including at least one where the victim alleges a brutal rape.

  32. Amy
    Posted November 17, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Regarding what you’re calling “a forcible kiss,” what he actually did was hold the back of her head and force his tongue into her mouth. For those wondering what the big deal is, that’s the big deal. That’s also not a “kiss” in a sketch being rehearsed. That is having a tongue forced into your mouth, unwanted.

    Thoughtful writing as usual, Mark. I just wanted to clarify this piece for those who may not have read or heard the actual description of what happened. Personally, I find this a thousand times worse than the photo. Imagine it being done to you, Frosted Flakes, by someone you didn’t want it done by. That’s not a “kiss.” And I like him, too, so this stinks.

    I actually had someone write to me today to apologize for an uninvited kiss (the non-invasive kind) 20 years ago. I respect that a great deal and it gave me hope for the good our current environment of mutual awkwardness is doing.

  33. Jean Henry
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    “I think what is interesting is that, while the United States is very rightly concerned with women being taking advantage of by the powerful, that the United States, and particularly liberals, would be so quickly to discredit the agency of women who engage in sexual behavior. The broad assumption seems to be that women cannot freely choose their sexual partners. I find that to be a disturbing assumption.”

    Who is saying that? The issue is consent. The problem is precisely that women should be able to freely choose their sexual partners. Not have it forced upon them.

    I think Bill Clinton is an asshole. I don’t have much problem with the Lewinski incident except how she was treated by the press and public and the Clintons in the aftermath. I don’t give a shit what people in Japan thought. This bullshit that anger re serial abuse is some form of sexually uptight prudery is just another justification for abuse. If I have a dime for every boomer ex hippy dude who thought free love meant free reign for men… I’m not going to take advice on consent from a culture where women have to have separate cars on trains so they don’t get mauled. Fuck them and their easy judgment of America. What do they know about us? Just because that shit is normalized doesn’t make it ok. Yeah, we learn to put up with it. It still should stop. The standards set in the past or elsewhere are irrelevant. Let’s stop it now.

  34. jcp2
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I think it’s possible to appreciate a person’s work product and not admire the person for who they were (or are) and not suffer from cognitive dissonance. It requires an admission of why you really appreciate the work product, and an acknowledgement that many others may not feel the same way about the same product.
    You brought up the example of Michael Jackson and Thriller. I do like Thriller. While I might be bring up the observation that Thriller was a ground breaking music video, responsible for the MTV/VH1 generation, that Michael Jackson was an exceptional artist with eccentricities, that he ultimately was in chronic physical pain because of the severe burns he suffered from an accident while filming a Pepsi commercial, that the group dance moves memorialized in the video have heavily influenced pop music ever since then, blah, blah, blah, the truth of the matter is that I have a fond emotional association with the video as it was the first time my friend bought a video tape (in Betamax) with his own money, and we rushed to his house to play it on his parent’s video cassette player. Others will not have that memory, and will remember Michael Jackson as a rich pedophile duct addict. That’s OK. He is, but this is my memory of Thriller.
    I have a similar fond emotional attachment with Tom Cruise, even though he’s a controlling jerk who many people consider on the border of sociopathic. It’s not because he’s a long lived male Hollywood star who looks un-aged and does his own stunts to the best of his physical capability. It’s because when I was in high school, my friends and I watched Top Gun three times in a row while taking a bus to our very first multiday ski trip in the Rocky Mountains. Cruise is a real nut case, but that ski trip was one of the highlights of my adolescence.

  35. Iron Lung
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I also think that Bill Clinton is an asshole. I also think that Lewinsky was treated unfairly in the press, both as harlot and as innocent victim, when in reality she said clearly that the relationship was consensual, a point people see intent on disregarding, which I find troubling.

    I’m sorry that you don’t give a shit what anyone thinks. The point isn’t that the US should make policy based on Japanese public opinion, but that we were the laughing stock of the world. I thought it was interesting.

    I don’t understand your point. I’m talking about sexual agency and the US’s problematic relationship with sex and your spouting some “don’t let the yellow people tell me what to do” nonsense.

    I’m not your enemy.

  36. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate your different perspective Amy. The picture is creepy and I thought it was worse to touch someone’s breasts while they were sleeping. Less bad because she had a Kevlar vest on. Less bad because it was photographed and presumably meant to be funny. Still bad and still worse though…

    The process of rehearsal is experimental. She agreed to the kissing experiment without setting parameters on the kiss. He seems to have responded appropriately after she set parameters. I don’t see the problem at all. Initial failure to communicate the parameters is all.

  37. Iron Lung
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    A dumb picture, yes, but it’s hard to put this on the same level as a child rapist or even Donald “grab ’em by the pussy” Trump.

    Liberals are making fools of themselves asking Franken to resign over this.

  38. DE
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Let it be noted that FFlakes, who has a real hard time with African American men, isn’t bothered by a white man sexually abusing a non-consenting woman. I bet somebody with the smarts of Jean Henry could shine light on the correlation.

  39. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Do you know what I like? Accurate assessments.

    Even though I have disagreed with Jean and Lynne about plenty of stuff I think their insights and assessments within this conversation have been fantastic and I agree with what they have said very much. I suspect I would agree with almost everything those two have to say about this subject. I also believe they are probably better than I am at articulating very agreeable thoughts about this subject than I am….

    Most people just don’t seem to understand how absolutely common molestation, rape, sexual assault (….) is. Otherwise very good people just don’t get it! It is even more common than dimwits trying to smear others with false accusations, with no evidence, while granting themselves wildly mis- assumptions over the internet. Would you know anything about that sort of stuff DE? I bet you do….

  40. Iron lung
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    You folks do know that this franken contrversy is exactly what fuels the mens rights people.

    While liberals eviscerate their leaders over a stupid picture of a comedian not touching breasts, trumps following grows and we lose 2020.

    Pick your battles wisely.

  41. Bob
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Pete, you’re so right.

  42. Lynne
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Iron Lung and Bob, to me that sounds like you are asking women to step back and not get to uppity or worse, appear angry about this shit lest some men get their feelings hurt and vote. You know what? Those guys are a minority. What women need are the non MRA white supremacist assholes to have our backs.

    Anyhooo, On the Media has a good episode this week on this topic. I highly recommend it!


    I am going to return to my rainy day binge watch of hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale which I also recommend as well as the book. If anyone wants a glimpse at the fears of a LOT of women anyways. I know I find it scary!!!

  43. Jean Henry
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    The men’s rights movement is fueled by any advances in women’s rights. Just like Obama’s election led to a rise in white supremacy. That’s how it works. It’s clear many think this is a political issue more than one of equity amd bodily agency. It’s fine if that’s your priority. It’s not mine. The urge by many to normalize and minimize and pivot away from the issue is pretty standard. I don’t think that tack going to fly anymore. We’ll see. I will make my point again that since these issues are ubiquitous they cross All party lines. Even though they will always be used for political gain by opposing parties, the end result should be no great loss or win.
    I’m very comfortable having a long and detailed and difficult public conversation about this. I don’t think it makes the US the laughing stock to anyone who cares about bodily agency. And those people exist in large numbers all over the world. It’s riduliud to make Basic human rights a partisan issue. And bodily agency and freedom from violence are understood as very basic human rights by most of the world.
    I’m guessing that womenwho have are sold for cattle and are only given the option of segregated train cars to avoid unwanted groping understand that concept, even if what we are demanding here is far away from their every day lived reality.

  44. Bob
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    I think what Peter said earlier about not being your enemy sums it up pretty well for a bunch of us. You both have imaginations that run pretty wild. Lynne, I honestly have no idea what you are talking about in your weird scenario. Bernie bros. Whatever that means too. It’s such a bore. Signing out.

  45. Jean Henry
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Bob– you unwittingly manage to hit upon every single trope of anti-feminism in your characterization of the women who post here. You don’t get it and that’s fine. Others do. I can suggest some men’s rights forums for you. Have a nice night. We’ll miss your scintillating wit, probing intellect and captivating observations.

  46. Jean Henry
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    Someone reminded me of this today. Maybe worth sharing in an effort to move the ball ahead a bit on the “me, too” conversation.

    On a lovely summer morning, I waited to cross Jefferson Street to Jeff Market. A construction crew was working at Bach elementary. One of the workers whistled and suggested I come over and give him a blow job. I glared and walked on. This has happened so many times that one accepts one’s powerlessness. As I walked into the store, it occurred to me that I owned the store. I had ownership and so I had the ability to respond more effectively than I had before, more effectively than a glare.

    I instructed the staff that if anyone on the crew came into the store, we would refuse them service. (I had no idea what the jerk looked like beyond the standard issue construction gear, so had no way of identifying him.) I told my staff that I would handle it if they felt uncomfortable, which they did.

    So, when a few workers came in to order coffee, I told them we couldn’t serve them and explained why. They looked stunned, and then explained it was a subcontractor and the guy was an asshole, ‘always doing that’ and they would tell him to stop. I said, ‘well he is unwelcome here. If you can keep him from coming in, we will serve you. But if I see him in here, you’re all banned.” (yeah, I know I had no way of enforcing that…) I then reminded them that they are working at an elementary school.

    Over the next few days, as other workers came in for beverages and what not, they each apologized and talked about how they hated that behavior and didn’t know why they tolerated it. One said he had a daughter and thanked me for giving them ‘a good reason’ to tell the jerk off.

    A few days later, mid heat wave, they told me the guy was bribing others to buy him a coke. AND THEY ALL REFUSED. Of their own volition, they collectively upped the consequence on the guy.

    Another few days and I received a call from the facilities manager at Ann Arbor Public Schools apologizing for my experience and saying they would never subcontract with that company again. I had never made a complaint. The crew manager complained for me. Again, they strengthened the consequence without any expectation or request on my part.

    My point in telling this is something about the value of ownership (all meanings) and the need for women to take a stand, of course, but more so, that men have a critical role to play in moving things forward. And that they will benefit as well from doing so.

    So men, thank you for stepping up and telling the assholes out there to step off. I know you do. And more and more so I hope. Everything could be so much better.

  47. Anonymous
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    What do you all think of the stories that are now surfacing about Franken’s accuser groping men?


  48. Anonymous
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Or of this 2003 video of her and Franken doing the same routine?


  49. Jean Henry
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    There’s going to be an ethics investigation. You want to talk about a waste of our time? —Speculating about events of 15 years ago via scant evidence put forward by politically motivated people on both sides pretty much wins the prize. Outrage is natural right now, but let’s save it for Trump.

    I don’t think Franken’s a bad guy. I think he screwed up. If I believed most men who have overstepped the line were irredeemable, I’d believe most men were irredeemable. Still, consequences are necessary. We do not have an absolutist justice system, political system or or culture, but we use absolutist rhetoric to talk about all those things. There is no point in litigating this thing in social media without evidence beyond out of context photos and clips and twitter rants. That’s a diversion from talking about the prevalence of sexual abuse and the essential question of consent– which you can’t discern from a photo alone. Please remember Franken has not denied this. Let’s let the investigation proceed and talk about what matters.

    The real way we become political pawns is by making issues that are not at base political, all about political gamesmanship.

  50. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    For starters, I find it depressing that such a poorly written and executed skit counts as entertainment for our troops.

  51. Jean Henry
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    This is what this moment (especially here) is starting to feel like: Women get to a point where society seems to be finally caring about some aspect of their experience and then it turns out they are really only concerned about the political implications. And then we are told, based on the political ramifications, what our experience is or is not and what matters to us or not and, importantly, how stupid it makes us look to others.

    I know you guys care about the experience of women, but not enough to listen much before you start to grab the narrative and run.

    For those with any interest at all, here is a relevant piece about vaginas, and women and men and the media but not politics. For the few who click through, maybe the absence of a political ramification will make the issue more clear. But, honestly, even with the vagina tease, it’s unlikely most men will click through and fewer will read it. They will still tell us why we are wrong about vaginas though.

  52. Adams
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    What do women feel about her groping of the man on stage? I’m genuinely curious.

  53. Jcp2
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I’m going to guess that some might find it distasteful, some might not care, some might say it’s no big deal, men do it at lot more, and some might get a thrill out of it as role reversal. But I don’t really know. I guess I’ll have to ask. More than one woman, even.

  54. Jean Henry
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    It’s impossible to know from a picture if that’s part of the skit or what the power dynamic is. We have no idea if there was consent. Jcp2 is correct however that the prevalence is broadly on the other side, a public display by a woman of what appears to be inappropriate touching l can be feel like ‘turnaround is fair play.’ I see more of this lately. My 19 year old daughter regularly deals with what is a constant atmosphere of harassment and belittlement of young women in NYC in ways I find challenging. Men offer to buy her a drink and she says only if you buy a drink for the table (usually full of gender queer people). I’m ok with that. Getting verbally aggressive and in their faces when they come onto her or just taking their money/drinks— and her bravado about all of it— is more problematic for me. As far as I know, she hasn’t groped men from anger . I wouldn’t put it past her though. There is also the issue of gay men feeling free to grope and inappropriately touch women (without permission) because they are not sexually attracted to women. It’s still an act of gender dominance.
    There is a reason I focus on consent. It’s a pretty simple concept. There are power dynamics at play and ideally in flux in every relationship. Consent provides a measure of safety and security in navigating the complexity of relationships generally. Ideally bodily agency and consent would be taught to children as a core principle away from the landmine area of sexuality. Ask permission and receive it clearly, before you grab someone’s body or toys or enter their physical space, no matter what your motivation.
    Most of the time, the motivation is probably not to do harm. People enjoy assertions of power and dominance. Ground rules aren’t a bad idea, given that human reality.
    So that’s a long way to say it’s not the Grabbing that’s the issue, it’s whether or not permission was granted.

  55. Iron Lung
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    “The men’s rights movement is fueled by any advances in women’s rights.”

    People who buy into that ridiculous ideology aren’t smart enough to even know what “advances in women’s rights” means.

    Jean, take a break from writing on MM for a week and start reading through the cesspool of men’s rights forums.

  56. Liz DMG
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I came a bit late to this thread, so I’m really grateful to Lynne, Jean Henry and Icp2’s contributions, which really saved me from going on a rant.

    One FB friend of mine had a post about what they’d like to see Al Franken do, which was to commit to not run again and spend his time and energy until then finding and helping progressive women candidates get elected, including a (another?) progressive woman to the Senate.

  57. Jean Henry
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I have. I don’t believe I can get any traction there as opposed to in other forums. The problem is ubiquitous. As tough parallel, I don’t believe one Best addresses issues with, say, excess alcohol consumption by trying to persuade alcoholics that it’s a bad idea. The needle on this issue is moving. It’s clear you prioritize the potential political ramifications. I prioritize improving physical safety and bodily agency. That affects our perspectives on this. I’m speaking here, perhaps excessively, because this is a high priority issue for me. And there are people reading who are not commenting. I know because they’ve told me and encouraged me to continue.
    I have my own beliefs about how to Best effect change, which is always difficult. That’s based on experience. I don’t attack virulent homophobes to try to improve overall cultural homophobia. That does not change Community consensus. It’s largely outside my sphere of influence. And for social change, moving people on the left to awareness works. I may seem impulsive and reactive and I often am, but I know where I’m aiming my rhetoric and why.

    Extremists are always provoked by change. So are average citizens. There are people going Great Work reforming extremists. They are mostly past extremists themselves. I’ve learned a lot paying attention to them. But that’s not my wheelhouse.

    It would be cool if the only real threat to women (and others) was a few fringe extremists. That’s not the primary seat of bias though.

    If my presence here bugs you, don’t read my comments.

  58. Jean Henry
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    That last post was directed to Irin’s comment. Liz’s comment interceded making that unclear maybe. Also , ‘tough’ should’ve read ‘rough.’ I’m all thumbs.

    Thanks Liz. I feel like I’ve been responsive here in many ways to the political points others raise, maybe too much. But no one is really interested in responding to my points about consent.
    That’s not going to shut me up on this issue.

  59. Iron Lung
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    “If my presence here bugs you, don’t read my comments.”


  60. Iron Lung
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    “One FB friend of mine had a post about what they’d like to see Al Franken do, which was to commit to not run again and spend his time and energy until then finding and helping progressive women candidates get elected, including a (another?) progressive woman to the Senate.”


    She was discovered while working at a Hooters and even appeared in their calendar one year. Not to say that any woman should be groped ever but you would assume that she would be immune to it after working there. In the (stupid) picture, there’s not even any contact.

    The skit was performed multiple times so you would think that she would be used to being kissed on stage.

    She is also a Republican. She has made no secret of supporting Republican candidates in the past.

    So, while we should take any woman’s complaints of sexual harassment seriously, shouldn’t we be skeptical in this particular case?

    When other women step forward to claim harassment by Franken, I will revise my views, but for now, I am extremely skeptical.

    Liberals have been had here. No wonder we lost 2016.

  61. Sad
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Her name is Leeann Tweeden.

    She. That woman. They. SMH!

    Maybe we lost in 2016 because the Democrats refused to address the issue, especially in respect to Bill Clinton. Maybe Leeann Tweeden has done us a favor by making the issue bi-partisan?

  62. Iron Lung
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Since her name was already mentioned in the thread, I used a pronoun as I would in any conversation.

    When has sexual harassment ever been a partisan issue?

    Leeann Tweeden’s sudden accusations, however, reek of partisan politics.

  63. Sad
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    That’s what Roy Moore said about Beverly Young Nelson when she came forward.

  64. Iron Lung
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    You people are a strange bunch.

  65. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I am confused. I read Jean as saying she is not too concerned about the Franken situation specifically. I thought Jean was pointing out that many people only point out individual instances, of otherwise super common problems of rape, molestation and sexual assault when it is convenient politically—and that is part of the problem. I don’t think Jean (or Lynne) are advocating that Franken suffer a harsh penalty at all…I thought one of Jean’s points was that we she is disappointed that we are not very good at reading the context of these different situations and it leads to false equivalencies. Many people’s very weird failures to see where different instances fall on the spectrum of sexual assault from mild to evil —is a piece of evidence that many people are very out of touch with the persaveness of the problem as well as the degrees of the problem. And the apparent cluelessness is disturbing?

    Sorry. Might be way off here, but that is the impression i was getting from Jean.

  66. Jean Henry
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Ff— I would never say anyone should be forced to resign wothout review. I made it very clear re Franken that I doubt there will be much more consequence and I think waiting for the findings of the ethics probe Franken himself requested is the best course of action. I don’t know enough to have an opinion on consequence and neither do any of you.

    I think the social consequence matters more really.

    The conversation about consent is necessary. I have not asked for any severe consequence in any of these cases. I don’t think the justice system is equipped as structured to handle many issues of consent very well (for good reason actually) . I don’t even think accusers should be believed and not questioned ever. I think we need to Build community consensus against constant sexual harassment and abuse of women (and others) and Build some very basic understanding of the principle of consent. And that means lots of women outing their experiences and occasionally specific men. But the outing of the experiences as a collective is more important to me by hundreds fold than the consequences or not to any of the men.

  67. Jean Henry
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Also, FWIW, I don’t believe any crime is so heinous that the criminal should be considered without redemption. I’m no fan of scapegoating either. I’m interested in US culture waking up to this completely unnecessary oppressive tendency in our culture and then working it’s way past it. That can’t hapen if we don’t tell our stories.

  68. Jean Henry
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Pete— really.
    I write to work out my thinking mostly. Your posts often provoke enough to make me respond in thought and word. I enjoy that, even when you piss me off. But I don’t have any expectation that it’s reciprocal. And I don’t expect you to read what I write with any great interest one way or another.

  69. Lynne
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I think the important thing here is that we are making boundaries more clear for everyone. All of this discussion about consent is important. It is having an effect. A lot of people who didnt know it before now know that even in a skit that calls for a kiss, it is not ok to invade someone else with your tongue. A lot of people who didn’t know it before now know that putting your hands on the boobs of a sleeping friend in not OK, even if the intent was just to make a joke.

    What I find most disturbing are the people who are justifying Moore’s behavior because they also truly believe that it is OK for men to “court” (*cough* sexually assault *cough*) young girls. That just gives me the shivers.

  70. Lynne
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Also, while I don’t feel Franken has an obligation to not run again, I can’t say that I would mind it if he took Kate Harding’s suggestion to not run and to help a progressive woman win his seat. What a powerful thing that would be?

    Its a win–win. Franken gets to do some real good and he gets to retire and spend more time with his family. The rest of get another woman in the Senate (maybe. There is risk). More importantly we get a good example of a decent man who did a bad thing own that he did it, sincerely apologize, and then work hard to make it right.

  71. Jean Henry
    Posted November 20, 2017 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Masha Gessen weighs in. Brilliant analysis as always. Please note her emphasis is not on the political ramifications or speculation, but on what moves the ball forward in terms of reducing the incidence of men using sex and humiliation as a means to control those who hold less power.

    “..maybe “Should Al Franken resign?” is the wrong question.
    The question frames the conversation in terms of retribution, but it is not possible to hold to account every man who has ever behaved disrespectfully and disgustingly toward a woman. Nor even every senator, or every comedian. And, even if it were possible to punish every single one of them, what would be accomplished? Punishment, especially when it is delayed, is not a very effective deterrent.”

  72. Men's Lawyer
    Posted November 20, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Mark, your headline is misleading.

    Franken isn’t “facing sexual assault charges”…that would imply he was being tried in a court of law for a criminal offense and has been indicted, booked, and charged for something…anything…

    He’s facing allegations of inappropriate touching & kissing from a media personality that may lead to a Senate ethics inquiry into his behavior. There are no “charges” whatsoever attached to these allegations legally and they basically aren’t enough to warrant a scolding from a traffic cop, much less any legal standing.

    Tweeden’s story is already falling apart, and the new one from the Lindsay Menz is laughably absurd, but that’s another matter.

  73. site admin
    Posted November 20, 2017 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Good point Men’s Lawyer. The title has been edited.

  74. Jcp2
    Posted November 20, 2017 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Maybe guys in power get a bit creepy without realizing it. Charlie Rose, man!

  75. Jean Henry
    Posted November 20, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    They can creepy because they can. Soon ‘could.’
    This is simply how many men in any power behave. Managers at pizza shops do this stuff. But no one is going to write about them in the media. All of these men will do just fine in the long run. A cultural correction is taking place. There is really no reason to demonize anyone who is not breaking the law. But just because their behavior is legal, does not make it ok.

  76. Jean Henry
    Posted November 20, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    They get creepy*

  77. Lynne
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    A lot of women who have power over others behave badly too even if it is not always sexual. All the more reason to have as egalitarian society as possible!

  78. Jean Henry
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Listening to Clinton allegations being re-visited. The speculation will go on forever. Imagine if the accusers claims had been thoroughly investigated? Imagine if they had not been Summarily dismissed. Whether True or false, maybe we would have been taking sexual abuse more seriously for the last 30 years; maybe allegations against Trump would have not so easily been dismissed, maybe the unresolved allegations against Clinton would not be the political football they remain now. Maybe we would have made the necessary changes in the status quo.
    People in power will always have easier access to sex. That doesn’t bother me. They just need to not feel entitled to it, and think a little more before acting, and ask for consent. Such a minor thing to ask to solve such a huge problem.

  79. Jean Henry
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Ps not talking about Lewinski there…

  80. Jean Henry
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Ps not talking about Lewinski there…

  81. Anonymous
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Tweeden on Hanity questioning Obama’s birth certificate.


  82. Jean Henry
    Posted December 7, 2017 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m depressed that Franken resigned without a review. This is a direct result of all the cheap moralizing and hypocrite baiting that goes on. This is the political ramifications becoming the major concern, NOT the abuse of women. This is about making a problem go away from the public eye as quickly as possible. All it does is make earnest Dems shoot their own in order to seem pure, in order to believe they are pure. I’m not sure anyone who did not grow up around strict ideology really understands how this works. Throwing a few dudes under the bus and yelling ‘sinner!’ will not solve the problem of pervasive abuse of women. This action may in fact make the lives of women worse. It could kill the whole movement. What we need is truth and reconciliation for all, not punishment for a few token famous and powerful guys, regardless of proof. We need to make room for guys like Franken to tell their stories truthfully (like really honestly and truthfully). In my mind this is almost as important as women telling their stories. And yes, it has happened… elsewhere. Truth and reconciliation processes have been implemented and have been effective. They are not perfect solutions. There are no perfect solutions– just hard long term paths forward versus cheap short cuts made to make the problem go away. Or at least the evidence of it.

    I think Franken’s replacement will do a fine job and Franken’s loss won’t hurt the party. I even think Franken will likely recover, BUT I also think it will place a pall on more women telling their stories. It will prevent the met00 movement from moving forward effectively, because the cost of disclosure will once again seem too high.

    I really hate moral righteousness. It never stopped a woman from being hurt ever.

  83. Lynne
    Posted December 8, 2017 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Jean. I feel the same way.

  84. Jean Henry
    Posted December 8, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Relevant for those who believe the right has the corner on predatory abusive assholes, while the left only has a few bros who are just ‘kidding around’ while being committed to feminism.

  85. Meta
    Posted February 19, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink


    White nationalist provocateurs, a pair of fake news sites, an army of Twitter bots and other cyber tricks helped derail Democratic Senator Al Franken last year, new research shows.

    While everyone has been focused on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election to support Donald Trump, the Franken takedown originated in—and was propelled by—a strategic online campaign with digital tentacles reaching to, of all places, Japan. Analysts have now mapped out how Hooters pinup girl and lad-mag model Leeann Tweeden’s initial accusation against Franken became effective propaganda after right-wing black ops master Roger Stone first hinted at the allegation.

    A pair of Japan-based websites, created the day before Tweeden came forward, and a swarm of related Twitter bots made the Tweeden story go viral and then weaponized a liberal writer’s criticism of Franken. The bot army—in tandem with prominent real, live members of the far right who have Twitter followers in the millions, such as Mike Cernovich—spewed thousands of posts, helping the #FrankenFondles hashtag and the “Franken is a groper” meme effectively silence the testimonies of eight former female staffers who defended the Minnesota Democrat before he resigned last year.

    The operation commenced on November 15, when Stone—who is now banned from Twitter for racism and profanity—tweeted from one of his accounts “Roger Stone says it’s Al Franken’s ‘time in the barrel.’ Franken next in long list of Democrats accused of ‘grabby’ behavior.”

    On the same day, a developer named Atsufumi Otsuka registered a web domain in Japan called RealUSA.site, and a fake-news website soon emerged at that web address, according to research shared with the voting rights outfit Unhack the Vote.

    Tweeden’s account of Franken groping her was first amplified by a network of right-wing media, including KABC in Los Angeles, where Tweeden has a radio show, The Hill, Infowars and Breitbart, which mobilized within hours of Stone’s tweet and the release of a picture of a Tweeden and Franken at a USO performance before he was a senator.

    By November 17, the trending of “Al Franken” was officially also a Russian intelligence operation, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, an organization tracking Russian social media accounts, based on a sample taken that day of 600 of the fake accounts.

    Five days later, on November 20, right-wing provocateur Charles Johnson tweeted, “Thinking of offering money to people who go on tv and say Al Frank is a predator.”

    That same day, Otsuka registered a second domain in Japan for another fake-news site, VotyUS.me. Both accounts used the same Google analytics account ID and Apple app ID, and the name of the servers and registration for both sites were virtually identical, researchers found.

    On December 7, just before Democrats started calling for Franken to step down, the freshly minted Japan-based fake sites went to work and re-published an article by Ijeoma Oluo, a liberal writer, urging women and activists to stop supporting Franken. Oluo had posted the opinion piece, titled “Dear Al Franken, I’ll Miss You but You Can’t Matter Anymore,” on a much smaller website, with a reach of 10,000 followers.

    Suddenly, thousands of apparently fake Twitter accounts were tweeting the title of the article—but linking back to one of the two Japanese-registered fake-news sites created in conjunction with the right-wing anti-Franken campaign. The bot accounts normally tweeted about celebrities, bitcoin and sports, but on that day, they were mobilized against Franken. Researchers have found that each bot account had 30 to 60 followers, all Japanese. The first follower for each account was either Japanese or Russian.

    “We began to suspect that this legitimate opinion piece [by Oluo] had been weaponized for political gain by dozens of twitter accounts, all of them repeatedly tweeting links to the two domains registered in Japan in late November,” Unhack the Vote’s Mike Farb wrote in Medium. “Strong similarities between the accounts combined with clear connection to the two recently-established Japanese websites verified our suspicions.”

    Soon, Farb and company realized they had “stumbled upon a sophisticated botnet being used to spread alt-right propaganda.”

    The researcher who discovered the botnet has nicknamed it “the Voty botnet,” and it is still alive today, although currently not operating in service of any political propaganda. The researchers estimate that more than 400 accounts are in the botnet, although at any given time, only a subset are being deployed in the online American political wars.

    Read more:

  86. Jean Henry
    Posted February 19, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Please remember that Franken CHOSE to step Done and evade the congressional inquiry he had asked for. Had he stuck it out, this information (which does not indicate the charges were false, just weaponized) could have been part of any assessment of his wrong doing. At least 8 women accused him of groping, and most did so at the time not years after the fact. Do I think a man who gropes women can govern effectively in their interests? Sure. I know many have. This is well established. Would I prefer men in any kind of power stop groping their subordinates? Of course.
    It’s interesting that bots promoted this story. I’m sure they took advantage of every area of controversy in US politics, just as our established and other media does. Franken lost his career for now and maybe this will help him re-establish it, but his seat is safely Dem now. This is not going to have a huge impact on the political framework we work in, except a clearly gropey dude suffered some humiliation, and many women will likely function in safer environments at work and elsewhere going forward. There is also one more progressive woman representing our own interests in the Senate right now.

    I don’t think the Franken thing, specifically, was necessary to the cause, but there’s no doubt it was useful. That doesn’t change with this information. My concern for Franken’s personal humiation does not outweigh my concern for the many women out there who face ritualized humiliation by men. So onward.

  87. Lynne
    Posted February 19, 2018 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    The thing is that 7 of those allegations are really in a grey area. I believe the women were made to feel uncomfortable and I believe their stories but, to me, they seemed like all the many times someone has hugged me or otherwise touched and made me feel uncomfortable. i.e. no one was intending to make me feel uncomfortable, we just had slightly different boundaries. Usually I just ignore it and move on.

    But fwiw, I also think it is important to remember that Franken chose to step down and was not forced to. That matters.

  88. Jean Henry
    Posted February 19, 2018 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    No one ever asserted his behavior rose to the level of anything beyond uncomfortable. The whole thing confounded me. I have no idea why the focus would so easily drift to someone so minimally culpable, given what we know about the prevalence of much worse behavior.

    All that said, if you are trying to make the case that you are a fierce advocate for women, you raise the bar for your own behavior. Sp maybe don]t paw at them, make mocking pictures of them and try to be aware of their personal boundaries.

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  1. […] Mike “date rape does not exist” Cernovich, and feel as though the release of this news, like that about Al Franken, was timed to help both Roy Moore and Donald Trump, who are presently facing allegations of their […]

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