Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Al Franken resigned in 2017, during the height of the #MeToo movement’s power. But reporting has cast a new light on the controversy


hould Al Franken really have fallen on his sword, resigning his Senate seat in December 2017 following a spate of minor sexual impropriety accusations, and mounting pressure from his colleagues? Seven US senators who once thought yes now think no – the Vermont senator Patrick Leahy calls it one of the “biggest mistakes” of his 45-year career. Franken, who no longer has a career and thus plenty of time to cultivate regrets, has come to believe that “differentiating different kinds of behavior is important”.

So believes the masterful investigative reporter Jane Mayer too, and she returns to The Case of Al Franken in the latest New Yorker. To cut to the chase: “Almost NOTHING His Main Accuser Said checks out,” as Mayer tweeted about the piece. The accuser in question is Leeann Tweeden, the conservative talkshow host pictured with Franken in a 2006 United Service Organizations (USO) tour photo, she asleep, he leering, outstretched hands a millimeter or so from her chest.

Mayer, a dogged unearther of facts, subjects Tweeden’s account of Franken’s supposed harassment to forensic analysis – she even gets her hands on the metadata from the camera – interviewing dozens of people who were on the scene, who worked with Franken, and who were in the know about the orchestration of the photo’s release. She uncovers a series of misstatements, implausibilities, and (no surprise) intimations of a political hit job – names like Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Sean Hannity hover in the background. Tweeden was herself a Trump supporter and a “birther” who’d publicly demanded to see Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

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