Here’s the thing about Al Franken.
Make that things.
Some people loved seeing Franken on Saturday Light Live. Some didn’t. Some people love how Franken has represented his fellow Minnesotans and Americans as a U.S. Senator for the Democratic Party. Some hate him for it.
I’ve only spoken to him once, on the phone, interviewing him some 17 years ago when one of his books came out. He acted abrasively and off-putting during our phone interview, which disappointed me at the time, not only as a newspaper reporter, but also as a comedian and comedy fan.
He also might be a charming, warm, loving and caring person to comedians and anyone else he knows and considers a friend.
In his capacity as a comedian, just about every photographer probably asked him for goofy or silly or outrageous poses during every photo shoot. Do your comedy thing! I’m not surprised you could find photos of him that would offend you now, or even back then. Also in his capacity as a comedian, he’s probably acted in certain ways just to get attention.
Leeann Tweeden is a radio host in 2017, but most anybody who heard of her or saw her before now saw her as a former Hooters hostess (the restaurant chain named her one of their top all-time “Hooters Girls”) who modeled in bikinis and lingerie, and otherwise acted the part of a sex symbol for athletes and soldiers and anyone else. Tweeden loved the attention, too. At the same time, it’s not difficult to see how or why she might not be attracted to Franken or think kissing him was gross.
It’s also not difficult to see that Franken’s “skit” with Tweeden was the same routine he performed three years before his 2006 USO Tour with her, with a different woman, who like Tweeden, also pivoted from Franken’s kiss to a line saying she’d rather be kissing a soldier. All for the hoots and hollers of the troops. It’s easy to watch any USO video from any era of the USO and see how the entire thing might be hostile to women. Tweeden may have wanted to support the troops, but not like this.
ALL OF THESE THINGS CAN BE TRUE AT THE SAME TIME
Which brings me to this letter that three dozen of Franken’s former colleagues at Saturday Night Live wrote in his defense.
What does their letter have to with any of this?
How many times have you watched your local TV news report on a murderer, and interview his or her (but usually his) neighbors only to see them say he seemed like a nice, quiet fellow?
Just because he didn’t kill you, rape you, or steal from you, doesn’t mean he is or was capable of committing an offense against someone else.
If any victims can come forward with their story, please listen to them. Hear them out. Do not dismiss them outright, no matter your preconceived biases.
So Franken may not be as decent as you once thought. He also certainly doesn’t deserve to be lumped into the same sentence or category with criminals and alleged criminals of worse offenses. Nobody does. Judge him on the merits and demerits of his own circumstances.
This is a powerful moment for all of us. Let us at once take a breath so as not to get carried away, while also using that pause to remember not to let this moment slip away from us as just a momentary reprieve.