Sexual Harassment

I believe Al Franken’s accuser. See how easy that was?

Condemning sexual assault shouldn’t give one pause based on the political affiliations of the perpetrator.

Writing for Slate.com this morning on the sexual assault allegations against Al Franken, Mark Joseph Stern was unequivocal: “There is no rational reason to doubt the truth of Tweeden’s accusations, no legitimate defense of Franken’s actions, and no ambiguity here at all.”

The accusations against Franken come on the heels of a media firestorm engulfing Roy Moore, whose unbridled bigotry and “family values” religious dogmatism made the revelations that he stalked shopping malls for vulnerable high school girls an early Christmas gift for Democrats and liberal pundits. The fall of Moore is important and crucial because it peels off an extra layer from something many of us already knew to be true as Trump surged to the presidency: the “moral majority” claimed by evangelicals is a fraud.

Although sexual assault/harassment is obviously a bipartisan phenomenon, revelations that some of our favorite cultural icons are also predators can be a hard pill to swallow. In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein bombshell, liberals seemed to come to the understanding that solely calling out the sexual hypocrisy of Republicans was not a luxury anymore. Aside from the fact that a proper reckoning with Bill Clinton’s sex crimes has yet to fully materialize, the response to the Franken allegations is promising, but we’re not out of the woods yet.

Some Republicans who’ve publicly condemned Moore will still give you a reptilian stare when asked why they vaulted an admitted serial sexual abuser to the presidency. But some Democrats give the same stare now that Bill Clinton is trending again. For liberals to have any credibility on this issue, they’re going to have to be unequivocal.

Again, Slate.com has been exceptionally good on this. Highlighting Clinton accuser Juanita Broadderick, Ruth Graham writes:

It had only been a few years since Anita Hill introduced the term sexual harassment to the American vocabulary. It wasn’t yet widely understood that a woman doesn’t need to be a “perfect victim” to have been abused. Patterns of abuse and harassment remained unfamiliar to those who hadn’t experienced it. Stories like Broaddrick’s still seemed shady: She went up to his hotel room voluntarily! She didn’t scream! Broaddrick herself seems to have thought this way for a long time. “I let a man in my room and I had to take my lumps,” she said in a 1999 interview, explaining why she waited so long to tell her story. “It was a horrible, horrible experience and I just wanted it to go away.” (She, like several of Clinton’s accusers, has since been embraced by conservatives as a vocal critic of both the former president and his wife. “We have the right to be believed,” she said on Fox News this week.)

Now in the current environment, people are admitting that Broaddrick deserved to be believed just as much as any of Weinstein’s, Trump’s, or Moore’s accusers. Better late than never.

Franken, who is accused by KABC news anchor Leean Tweeden of touching her breasts while she was asleep and forcibly sticking his tongue down her throat while “rehearsing” a kissing scene, crafted in his initial apology a narrative for his potential defenders to use should they take up the cause.

“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” Franken said. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

In other words, ‘He was a comedian and was just making a dirty joke. Cut him some slack.’  Not this time.

Franken has an uncertain future ahead of him. Coming to the conclusion that he needs to be held accountable shouldn’t be a process or an evolution; it should be an adherence to principle.

Featured image via Flickr

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