“Can you say seven other women are liars and possibly more? I mean, that's between those women and God, who's lying. He's the one stepping down.”
Democratic Sen. Al Franken took to the Senate floor to announce he was stepping down amid a barrage of sexual misconduct and harassment allegations.
The speech was rather emotional as the Minnesota senator used the opportunity to highlight the irony that he was resigning while President Donald Trump still occupied the White House and Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore was still leading the race in Alabama.
“Today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as member of the United States Senate,” Franken said. “I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls, campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.”
While his swipe at Trump and Moore received praise and admiration, his lack of remorse over his alleged actions bothered some people – particularly the women who have accused him of groping, kissing or trying to kiss them without consent.
“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,” Franken continued. “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.”
So far, eight women have come forward with somewhat similar accusations against the senator.
Leeann Tweeden, a radio broadcaster, was the first to claim Al Franken groped her. She claimed he touched her breasts while she slept and even forced a kiss on her in 2006 when they were preparing to perform before U.S. troops in the Middle East.
“I'm not celebrating his resignation. It's a lose-lose situation,” Tweeden told CNN. “I'm not celebrating his resignation but we also can't tolerate hypocrisy. We can't have our leaders saying one thing and doing another.”
She also said she was disappointed how instead of apologizing, Franken went on to suggest he was innocent.
“Can you say seven other women are liars and possibly more?” Tweeden added. “I mean, that's between those women and God, who's lying. He's the one stepping down.”
Lindsay Menz, the second women to accuse Franken of grabbing her butt as she posed for a photo with him at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, also had a similar reaction.
“I guess I’m a little disappointed by his statement,” she exclaimed. “Just that he would continue to dismiss and put the allegations down.” Menz also said she felt badly that Franken had to leave a job he was passionate about, but added she feels “bad that this is our culture. I feel bad that we’ve allowed men to behave this way.”
To be honest, Franken could have used his speech to apologize to the alleged victims, but he instead turned it into a political statement by going after self-confessed groper Trump and alleged child molester Moore. What he said about the two men was important and someone needed to say it out loud. However, Franken disregarding his accusers and claiming he remembered some of the events “very differently” pointed to a different problem altogether: Most men do not think they are harassing women when they make unwanted sexual advances toward them because they associate their actions with misguided notions of romance.
Disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein inadvertently explained the problem to some extent when he said, “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”
Admitting wrongdoing on his part would have been one thing, but doubting the legitimacy of the women’s claims definitely did not go as well as Franken had probably hoped.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Yuri Gripas