This one is complex for me. And it’s hard to talk about because the issue seems to have lost any and all semblance of nuance (at least that I’ve encountered). So I want to make just a few comments to get them out of my head and up for discussion.
1. I’m still not fully convinced of his guilt. And I say this being completely on board with the concept of believing women. I know that in most of these cases, there simply won’t be any “evidence” because of the nature of the crime. And therefore we should err on the side of believing the women that speak up. I’m fully behind that idea and I’m not claiming that we should discount the women who have come forward solely based on the lack of solid evidence.
2. I’m very disappointed by all of the slut-shaming that has been happening in regard to Tweeden, as it makes absolutely no difference what she may or may not have done in her past. Groping is still groping. Using the “yeah but she posed nude” argument is not useful or okay, and I’ve been hearing far too much of that from the left. That said, I’m not sure I believe her. For a few reasons. One, a key part of her claim is that she believes Franken made up the skit in question as an excuse to be able to kiss/grope her. That’s simply not true, and she knows it. The same skit had been happening, with other performers, since before she was on the USO tour (which she had to have known). So the fact that she lied about this fundamental aspect of the story makes me question the rest of her story, as does the fact that she seems to be getting a lot of press for her new radio station out of this. Given that this same skit had been prepared and performed before Tweeden, it would make sense to me that other performers would come out with similar stories about this skit (or any other skit). But we haven’t heard from any of them, anonymously or otherwise.
3. The groping during photo ops. I also have a hard time believing this is accurate. Given the sheer volume of pictures this man takes with people every year, if this were truly something that he did, I’d expect to hear from many, many more women reporting it. As a person very close to MN politics, and someone who has met Al and taken several pictures with him, I would have thought that I would have heard “rumblings” about this type of behavior well before now. If there is a guy groping women during photo ops, I would expect that those of us involved in MN politics should have at least heard rumors before now. Maybe a “heads up, that guy likes to grab butts while he’s taking pics - watch out.” But I’ve literally never heard any such thing. And neither has anyone else I’ve ever spoken to involved in MN politics. Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening; it’s just surprising to me that women wouldn’t have been warning each other before this. And maybe they were, and I just never heard it. I don’t know. I will say that when you take a pic with Al, he pulls you in close and generally puts his arm around your waist. I can see how this would make some people feel uncomfortable. But again, he takes hundreds (probably thousands) of photos with people a year. It would not shock me to find out that he had “misplaced” a hand once or twice. Again, NOT saying it never happened, just my reasons for doubting.
4. The Tweeden picture. It was clearly in bad taste, but I also think it’s clear he wasn’t actually touching her. That’s not an excuse, but I do think there’s a difference between touching and not touching. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t in the wrong. I just don’t think “groping” is an accurate representation of what was going on in that photo. I also find it odd that he would take that picture knowing full well that she would see it if there was any malicious intent behind it. Not that intent matters, necessarily, especially in relation to how the woman felt about it, but I do think it goes to the “level” of what kind of “wrong” this was. This was a picture taken by the photographer who was documenting the trip, and they all knew they’d all be getting copies of the pics at the end of the trip.
5. The apology. If you listen carefully, Al has been very deliberate about not “confessing” to anything other than the Tweeden picture. I think he was trying to tread a fine line between not admitting guilt (because he knew he wasn’t guilty) and not straight up calling the women liars. He knew claiming that they lied would make the whole thing worse, but it put him in a tough position. Does he admit to something he didn’t do, or does he protest and just have everyone assume he’s lying and trying to disrespect the women? It’s an impossible situation to be in.
6. Bottom line, my main reason for questioning the claims made is that Al is a very smart guy. He fought hard for his senate seat, and he took the position very seriously. Those of us in MN saw that. He refused to joke at all on the campaign trail or anywhere else for a few years at the beginning just because he wanted people to know that this was something he was taking seriously. I really, genuinely, have a hard time believing he’d be so cavalier with people (especially constituents), and risk losing that seat because he wanted to be able to grab some butts or make out with a model. He’s not stupid. He would have known that these things could be found out at any time, and he surely would have known what it would have done to his career.
But, in this moment, he also knew that trying to protest the accusations was a no-win game. It doesn’t matter if he actually did it or not, because believing women first is finally becoming the standard. And that’s a good thing for society. But in this instance, I really think an innocent man may have gotten thrown under the bus. It makes me sad. I hope he didn’t do these things, and I think I have decent reasons to believe he didn’t. Either way, it’s over now and we’ve lost one of the best senators we had. And those of us who elected him and fought for him had no say in the matter. He called for an ethics investigation into himself, and we didn’t even let that play out. I find that disheartening, and it makes me sad that all of the arguments I’m hearing on all sides of this are terrible. So basically, yeah. This whole thing just sucks.