I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.
–William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene II
If Al Franken hadn’t plopped his pudgy senatorial butt high on the pedestal of progressivism, he wouldn’t have so far to fall. So when Leeann Tweeden spilled the beans on the former SNL writer, who a mere day ago took Texas Tweeter Laureate Donny Ray Willett to task for his twit, he probably didn’t anticipate how quickly it would come back to bite him in his ample ass.
Tweeden didn’t get the joke either.
He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL…we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’
He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.
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.
Without pics it didn’t happen? Okay then.
Is he touching? Is it just pretend touching? Is it funny one way but not the other?
In a statement, Franken said: “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.”
Of course he’s sorry. And it was wrong to let Bill Clinton off the hook too, three presidents later when nobody wants to look like a sleazy hypocrite.
I don’t come to praise Franken, but I won’t bury him either. First, this happened in 2006, but is only now coming to light.
I wanted to shout my story to the world with a megaphone to anyone who would listen, but even as angry as I was, I was worried about the potential backlash and damage going public might have on my career as a broadcaster.
But that was then, this is now. I’m no longer afraid.
Did Tweeden really want to “shout her story to the world”? Beats me, but she didn’t. She didn’t then. She didn’t when Franken ran for office. She didn’t utter a word. She’s no longer afraid? Why, because it’s now cool for people who never did a thing for years, for a decade, to now be the victim? Misery loves company. Victims too.
But as with all presentism, this is the week of outing the powerful males for the disgusting, outrageous, totally awful rapey behavior that occurred at some point in the past, often distant past, that nobody ever mentioned before. This isn’t to question that it happened, but to challenge the outrage when it’s fashionable, the silence when it wasn’t, and the failure to show any serious grasp of context.
There was a time when the cool kids, particularly those with breasts, thought personal sexual agency by women was the wave of the future. No longer should a woman be deemed a slut for enjoying, and engaging in, sex. No longer should breasts and vaginas be considered taboo, the nasty bits that nice girls pretended not to have and would never, but never, show.
Women had breasts. Women had vaginas. Women were allowed to use them, whenever they wanted. And it was no crime to be callipygian. And jokes about such things were still funny. At least people didn’t lose their shit over it. As women and sex became less a matter of disgrace and more a matter of the mundane, it was no longer an earth-shattering thing for guys to push (because all guys are horn dogs, you know) and women to push back.
What provides a slight glimmer of the time is Tweeden’s reaction to Franken forcing his tongue into her 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.
This knee-jerk reaction didn’t involve a knee jerk, which would have been well within her rights to administer. It wasn’t a deliberative reaction, taken after calculating the pluses and minuses of beating Franken to a pulp or seeking official rebuke.
To be clear, even in 2006, Franken’s tongue-thrust was unacceptable. This was, as folks say today, not okay. Not even close. It was disgusting and unacceptable behavior. But Tweeden’s reaction to it, an admonishment that she wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time, reflected a somewhat normal reaction and its proportionate severity in the scheme of disgusting behaviors. It could well have been far worse, and still within the scheme of normal reactions.
Franken’s fault is partially being a pig. He was. There’s a pic. But while today the penalty is social death, the conduct is more contemptible for the hypocrisy it reflects. There’s no excuse for Franken’s behavior, and Tweeden’s belated revelation when surrounded by support is completely understandable.
But Franken’s disgrace is its own punishment. His hypocrisy neuters his claim to righteousness, as pulled out yesterday at Justice Willett’s confirmation hearing. Or maybe this is just a game being played by some women to get it all out there, forgive the guys who’ve been sufficiently cowed into obsequiousness, and agree to faithfully spend the rest of their hypocritical careers atoning for their sins.
Update: Senator Franken has issued another statement:
Now he’s woke, disgusted with himself and realizes that “it’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters.” Right.