Sen. Al Franken gave a speech on the floor of the Senate yesterday in which he announced his upcoming resignation from the Senate after eight women had accused him of improper sexual behavior, including groping and forced kissing.
Yet in that speech that lasted almost 12 minutes and contained 1,341 words, only 119 of those words were about his victims. Here is what Franken said about them:
“Over the last few weeks, a number of women have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them. I was shocked. I was upset.
“But in responding to their claims I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously.
“I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done.”
“Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently.”
That was it. Just the same non-apology we’ve heard over and over from men accused of sexual harassment. “Yes, my women accusers deserve to be heard, but come on folks, most of this either never happened or I remember it differently.”
Sorry Al, “Yes, but …” ain’t an apology.
If Franken really were the champion of women’s rights that he claims to be we would have heard a different speech.
Lest we forget, check out what Franken’s first accuser, radio news personality Leeann Tweeden, wrote less than a month ago in an essay published on the website of KABC radio in L.A. We pick it up at the point when Franken insists on rehearsing a sketch he wrote for Tweeden and himself to perform in a USO show for the troops in December 2006:
“On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, ‘We need to rehearse the kiss.’ I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t “SNL.” … We don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’
“He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.
“He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.
“I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.
“I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.
“I felt disgusted and violated.
“Not long after, I performed the skit as written, carefully turning my head so he couldn’t kiss me on the lips.
“No one saw what happened backstage. I didn’t tell the Sergeant Major of the Army, who was the sponsor of the tour. I didn’t tell our USO rep what happened.
“At the time I didn’t want to cause trouble. We were in the middle of a war zone, it was the first show of our Holiday tour, I was a professional, and I could take care of myself. I told a few of the others on the tour what Franken had done and they knew how I felt about it.
“I tried to let it go, but I was angry.
“Other than our dialogue on stage, I never had a voluntary conversation with Al Franken again. I avoided him as much as possible and made sure I was never alone with him again for the rest of the tour.
“Franken repaid me with petty insults, including drawing devil horns on at least one of the headshots I was autographing for the troops.
“But he didn’t stop there.
“The tour wrapped and on Christmas Eve we began the 36-hour trip home to L.A. After 2 weeks of grueling travel and performing I was exhausted. When our C-17 cargo plane took off from Afghanistan I immediately fell asleep, even though I was still wearing my flak vest and Kevlar helmet.
“It wasn’t until I was back in the U.S. and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one:
“I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.
“I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.
“How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?
“I told my husband everything that happened and showed him the picture.
“I wanted to shout my story to the world with a megaphone to anyone who would listen, but even as angry as I was, I was worried about the potential backlash and damage going public might have on my career as a broadcaster.
“But that was then, this is now. I’m no longer afraid.”
During Franken’s speech yesterday he said, “You know an important part of the conversation we’ve been having the last few months has been about how men abused their power and privilege to hurt women.
“I am proud that during my time in the Senate I have used my power to be a champion of women and that I have earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside every day. I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am.”
Instead of giving us a speech all about you, Al, you should have given us a sincere speech about how brave Tweeden and your other victims were to have stepped forward.