In the three weeks since he was first accused of groping women, Democratic Minnesota Sen. Al Franken offered a litany of excuses instead of taking responsibility for his alleged behavior, even as more accusers stepped forward.
Franken resigned on the Senate floor Thursday after eight women came forward to accuse him of groping or forcibly kissing them. Six of those women accused him of groping their butts or breasts.
Even as he announced his resignation on Thursday, Franken claimed that “some of the allegations are simply not true,” and that he remembered the other accusations differently. He has consistently claimed to have no memory of the incidents when the alleged groping took place, despite offering excuses for doing so.
In response to Leeann Tweeden, who accused Franken of forcibly kissing her and then later groping her while she was asleep, he seemed to indicate that he should be held to a lower standard because he used to be a comedian, while claiming that he remembered things differently.
.@LeeannTweeden writes, “You…grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed.”
— Amber Athey (@amber_athey) November 16, 2017
“Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that,” Franken said.
“While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.”
The Democratic senator repeatedly touted his feminist credentials, claiming to be a “champion of women” and saying, “I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t.”
He reiterated this claim while announcing his resignation on Thursday.
“I am proud that during my time in the Senate, I have used my power to be a champion of women,” Franken said. “And that I have earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside every day.”
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In his resignation speech, the senator seemed to suggest that he was forced to resign because of how “respectful” he was to his accuser.
“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. I think that was the right thing to do,” Franken said.
“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,” added the former actor.
Franken had previously indicated that the accusations against him were because he is a “warm person” who likes to “hug people.”
“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,” Franken said in a statement released on Thanksgiving.
One of Franken’s go-to rhetorical devices was to apologize for the “feelings” of his accusers — implying that the issue was their emotions rather than his conduct.
“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,” Franken said in his Thanksgiving Day statement.
“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.”
“If you had said to me two weeks ago that a woman was going to say that I had made her uncomfortable and disrespected her in one of these ways I would have said ‘no,'” Franken told Minnesota Public Radio a few days later.
Franken initially sidestepped calls for him to step down from his Senate seat, implying that he could better make amends for his behavior if he were to continue working in the Senate.
“I am going to try to learn from my mistakes and in doing so I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, and I want to be someone who adds something to this conversation, and I hope I can do that,” he said during a press conference last week. “That starts with going back to work today.”
He claimed he could regain the trust of women and his constituents, asserting, “What I’m going to do is I’m going to start my job… I’m going to work as hard as I can for the people of Minnesota, and I’m going to start that right now.”
Franken’s resignation speech ultimately was pockmarked with the same past excuses he’s offered for his conduct. Franken portrayed himself as a feminist and “champion for women” throughout his speech, while at the same time trying to undermine the women who accused him of sexual misconduct and refusing to apologize for his actions.
Franken’s 1300-word speech on Thursday included exactly zero apologies to the women he allegedly assaulted.