WASHINGTON ― The allegations of sexual harassment against Sen.
Al Franken (D-Minn.) could cost Democrats a progressive voice
who distinguished himself with his tough and incisive
questioning of President Donald Trump’s judicial and cabinet
Franken has laid low since a news anchor last week revealed
that he kissed and groped her without her consent during a USO
tour in December 2006. The Democrat canceled several speaking
engagements over the weekend and is planning to “reflect” with his
family in Washington, D.C., during this week’s Thanksgiving
But on Monday, in a development that will likely intensify
pressure on Democrats to further distance themselves from
Franken, a second woman came forward with an allegation about
the two-term senator.
Lindsay Menz, 33, said in a report published by CNN that Franken
groped her in 2010 while posing for a photograph at the
Minnesota State Fair.
“As my husband took the picture, [Franken] put his hand
full-fledged on my rear. It was wrapped tightly around my butt
cheek,” Menz said, becoming the first woman to allege improper
contact by Franken while he was in office.
alreadybegun calling on
Franken to resign, establishment Democrats have largely held
their fire pending a Senate Ethics Committee investigation that
Franken has readily welcomed. Such a probe, however, could take
months to complete. The last time the committee recommended a
senator be expelled over allegations of sexual harassment or
assault occurred in 1995, against Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.).
Franken’s role in the Senate could be diminished even if he
does not step down.
“If nothing more comes out, then it’s more like, say, Ted
Kennedy, who had to lay low” after reports of his drunken
debauchery decades ago threatened to sink his re-election in
1992, a Democratic strategist who requested anonymity due
to his close ties to Franken told HuffPost.
Kennedy took a surprisingly passive role in the Supreme Court
confirmation hearing for Clarence Thomas, who was also accused
of sexual harassment, “because of his own issues, but over time
he was able to rehabilitate and rebuild,” the strategist noted.
While Franken kept a conspicuously low profile during his first
term, the former “Saturday Night Live” comic emerged as a
prominent liberal force on the Senate Judiciary Committee this
year with his pointed grilling of Trump nominees.
Franken made headlines in February by skewering then-Education
Department Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos over her lack of
experience in the education field. In March, he pressed Neil
Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, over
Republicans’ refusal to give Merrick Garland, President Barack
Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, a hearing. And it was Franken
who got into a heated exchange
with Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month over his
shifting memory regarding his meetings and contacts with
Russian officials during last year’s presidential campaign.
“It would be a loss. He’s become pretty famous for his clear,
penetrating questions,” the strategist said about the
possibility of Franken stepping down.
Franken exerted influence over lower court nominees as well. He
objected to the nomination of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice
David Stras to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, forcing
Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to upend
longstanding Senate precedent to overrule him and
grant Stras a hearing. Franken also called into question
the record of Amy Comey Barrett, Trump’s nominee to the 7th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who he said was tied to a
For now, though, the allegations mean more immediate
Franken has forfeited the ability to speak credibly on the
issue of sexual assault, for example, which was one of the first
causes he decided to take up upon being elected to the
Senate in 2008. Fellow Minnesota Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar
will be the main sponsor of
a bill that Franken was set to introduce that aims to help
survivors of sexual assault, CNN reported Monday.
As calls for his resignation mount, it’s clear Franken’s career
in the Senate is hanging by a thread.
“With additional women coming out, patterns emerge,” Democratic
strategist Hilary Rosen, who condemned Franken’s actions, told
HuffPost. “Sen. Franken has to go home to Minnesota, admit his
fault. He needs to convince his constituents that he
understands the problem, is sincere in his regret and will work
hard to earn back women’s trust.”
“If his constituents forgive him, he can move forward,” Rosen
added. “But times have changed so this won’t be an overnight
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