The Corner

Suddenly, Taking Sexual Harassment Seriously Could Cost an Incumbent Democrat

In response to The Court Predator

Yesterday I wrote that long-delayed reckonings about the harassment and potential crimes of Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy are welcome, but they are arriving at a distinctly convenient time for the Democratic party.

Today we’ll see whether Democrats and various voices on the left are willing to confront inappropriate behavior on the part of a Democratic lawmaker in office. As our Theodore Kupfer writes below, KABC radio host Leeann Tweeden says that Senator Al Franken groped and forcibly kissed her on a USO tour in 2006. While most people are likely to respond to the photo, the described behavior deserves its own focus:

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.

The statement from the senator is not really much of a denial: “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

What is the appropriate response or consequence of this kind of gross behavior? Franken can hardly ask that it be dismissed as a youthful indiscretion; he was 55 at the time.

Democrats are likely to be divided in their responses. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri stated on Twitter, “I’m shocked and concerned. The behavior described is completely unacceptable. Comedy is no excuse for inappropriate conduct, and I believe there should be an ethics investigation.”

But then there’s Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who, when asked about the Franken allegations, responded, “You guys need to find something more interesting.” UPDATE: The reporter clarifies that Whitehouse said this before being asked about the Franken accusations… which is a pretty glaring error. 

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