New York State

Gillibrand faces backlash over Al Franken (again)

The New Yorker does a deep dive on one #MeToo allegation.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. SCOOTERCASTER/Shutterstock

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand continues to be haunted by her decision to demand former U.S. Sen. Al Franken’s resignation – as The New Yorker tries to undo some of the consequences of the #MeToo movement it helped start.

Franken’s fall from grace is being rehashed after The New Yorker published a robust article Monday detailing how his resignation came to be.

In 2017, in the early days of the #MeToo movement, conservative radio talk show personality Leeann Tweeden alleged in a blog post that Franken had aggressively kissed her without her consent in a comedic sketch while they were on a USO Tour in 2006. She also alleged that he groped her while she was sleeping and shared a photo documenting the incident. Following Tweeden’s accusation, several women shared similar stories of the then-senator acting in ways they felt to be sexually inappropriate.

Following a Politico report in 2017, in which a seventh woman accused Franken of sexual impropriety, Gillibrand’s staff alerted Franken that she would be demanding his resignation, The New Yorker recounts. The two senators never spoke one-on-one. Gillibrand – who has a long history of calling out sexual assault in military settings – took to Facebook to demand his resignation, then moments later appeared at a pre-planned press conference to announce her sponsorship of a “new bill that banned mandatory arbitration of sexual-harassment claims” – without mention that Franken had helped develop the legislation. However, the article also notes that it was U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that gave Franken the final push to resign. 

The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer attempts to defend Franken by pointing out some inconsistencies in Tweeden’s allegations against him: interviewing actresses who had been on USO tours with Franken, performed the same sketch as Tweeden did with Franken, and told the magazine he had not been inappropriate with them, along with the accounts of others who had been on the 2006 USO tour and vouched for Franken’s innocence. Additionally, multiple women who had worked with Franken over the years similarly affirmed Franken’s professionalism and his devotion to his wife. 

One paragraph makes mention of Tweeden’s photos in men’s magazines such as Playboy and FHM, and her affiliation with conservative outlets and their knowledge of her Franken story before her allegation was made public – neither of which clarify whether or not Franken had acted inappropriately with her. 

Several U.S. senators told The New Yorker that they wished they had not called for Franken’s resignation, but Gillibrand remained adamant that she would have reacted in the same manner today. “The women who came forward felt it was sexual harassment,” Gillibrand told The New Yorker. “So it was.”

Now Gillibrand is being singled out for calling for Franken’s resignation two years ago on Twitter, with some saying she jumped on the #MeToo bandwagon too quickly. 

However, others defended Gillibrand’s actions, calling out those criticizing the senator for speaking up for victims of sexual harassment.