Sunday June 7th, 2020 4:18AM

Franken's rising political star obscured by accusations

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — "Many of you have jobs, many of you have families," Sen. Al Franken told Democratic leaders gathered on the eve of a hotly contested governor's election in Virginia. After an expectant pause, he leaned into the microphone and added, "Ignore them."

Franken was jokingly beseeching activists to get out the vote the following day, in what ended up as a surprisingly decisive victory for Democratic candidate Ralph Northam. But the moment, barely two weeks ago, also underscored how high the one-time "Saturday Night Live" comic had risen in his party's firmament.

After spending much of his nearly nine years as senator trying to shed his funnyman image and quietly digging into issues like internet access and consumer protection, he was now a draw at political events and mentioned by some as a 2020 presidential possibility. Months of savaging some of President Donald Trump's appointees had turned the Harvard-educated Franken into a weapon of choice for Democrats eager to attack the administration and energize party voters. He brandished comedy as a bludgeon.

Now, Franken's rising trajectory has been interrupted by allegations he had physical contact with four women without their permission. He faces a Senate ethics investigation for improper conduct and hasn't been seen publicly since the first claims of misbehavior last week. His future is suddenly unclear.

"It's always a great disappointment when leaders you like and admire do bad stuff," said Mike Lux, a liberal Democratic consultant. He said it was premature to say how the allegations would affect Franken's career. But, Lux added, "If more incidents come to light, he's got a real problem."

Los Angeles radio anchor Leeann Tweeden last week said Franken had put his tongue in her mouth during a 2006 USO tour, before he became senator. She also posted a photo of him with his hands above her chest as she slept wearing a flak vest aboard a military plane. Franken, 66, has apologized.

Another woman, Lindsay Menz, said Monday he'd squeezed her buttocks in 2010 while posing for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair. Franken, by then a senator, said he didn't remember the picture but expressed remorse that Menz felt "disrespected."

In a story published Wednesday by the Huffington Post, two more women alleged that Franken touched their buttocks during campaign events in 2007 and 2008.

Franken canceled a sold-out appearance in Atlanta to promote his book, "Al Franken, Giant of the Senate." His aides have said he's "spending time with his family and doing a lot of reflecting."

Franken came to the Senate after a months-long recount gave him a 312-vote victory in his 2008 election. He immediately distanced himself from his decades of professional comedy, which included off-color jokes about rape and disparaging women, and avoided national reporters.

Instead, he focused on building a reputation as a studious senator, pushing legislation to crack down on Wall Street rating agencies he considered complicit in the 2007 economic collapse. As a signature issue, he adopted the push to protect "net neutrality," an Obama administration policy barring internet providers from blocking or hindering websites. The Trump administration's Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday it will dismantle the rule.

Franken helped shape parts of former President Barack Obama's health care law and tackled farm and mental health issues. He easily secured a second six-year term in 2014, defeating a Republican businessman.

Franken appeared on his first Sunday network talk show late in his first term amid signs he was bolstering his national profile. But it was Trump's emergence that teased out a new Franken and had him pivot from staid senator to liberal attack dog.

In withering interrogations in the Senate, Franken has clashed with a parade of Trump Cabinet appointees.

"He made those guys sweat," former Senate Democratic aide Jim Manley said. "He's got the ability to channel some of the populist rage against the administration."

Franken had a celebrated clash last month with Jeff Sessions over the attorney general's evolving descriptions of his contacts with Russian officials during last year's presidential campaign. Sessions, a Trump campaign official, told Congress in January he'd not communicated with the Russians. He later said he didn't recall such contact. Then last month, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee he'd had no "improper discussions" with them.

"To me, that is moving the goal posts every time," Franken, a committee member, told Sessions.

At a January confirmation hearing, Franken bore into education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos when she seemed unable to answer a policy question. "I'm not that surprised that you didn't know this issue," he said.

He opposed Trump Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch and battled with Rick Perry over the energy secretary's skepticism that increased carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming. He told Tom Price, who has since resigned as health secretary, that it was "very hard to believe" that he didn't realize he'd owned tobacco stocks, and that "millions of Americans" feared the Trump administration's push to repeal Obama's health care law.

In a lighter exchange, Perry told Franken he enjoyed meeting him at the senator's office, saying, "I hope you are as much fun on that dais as you were on your couch."

"Please, oh my lord," Franken replied.


Potter reported from St. Paul, Minnesota.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Franken's rising political star obscured by accusations
The political ascent of Minnesota Democrat Al Franken has been abruptly interrupted by allegations of sexual misconduct
10:20AM ( 7 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump tells military 'We're really winning'
President Donald Trump tells military members 'We're really winning' against US foes
9:55AM ( 33 minutes ago )
Macy's parade begins with balloons, bands and security
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has stepped off with soaring balloons and high-stepping bands as police go all-out to secure it in a year marked by attacks on outdoor gathering spots.
9:52AM ( 35 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Zimbabwe, facing new leader, wonders 'Where is Mugabe?'
Zimbabwe, facing incoming leader, can't help wondering 'Where is Mugabe?'
9:17AM ( 1 hour ago )
Texans displaced by Harvey readjust plans for holiday feast
A Texas family is readjusting its annual Thanksgiving feast as the home where it's normally been prepared undergoes renovations following Hurricane Harvey
8:56AM ( 1 hour ago )
Papua New Guinea officials pressure refugees to leave camp
Papua New Guinea authorities have removed dozens of asylum seekers and ratcheted up pressure on more than 300 others to abandon a decommissioned immigration camp, where refugees reported their shelters, beds and other belongings have been destroyed
8:41AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
US declares 'ethnic cleansing' against Rohingya in Myanmar
The United States is declaring the ongoing violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar to be "ethnic cleansing."
12:53AM ( 9 hours ago )
Report: Rep. Joe Barton threatened ex-lover with police
A published report says U.S. Rep. Joe Barton told a woman that he would complain to U.S. Capitol Police if sexually explicit photographs of him and other material from their relationship were to be exposed publicly.
12:10AM ( 10 hours ago )
The Latest: Report: Barton said he'd go to police over photo
A published report says U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of Texas told a woman to whom he had sent sexually explicit photos, videos and messages that he would report her to U.S. Capitol Police for exposing his behavior
11:34PM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Online National News
The Latest: Hezbollah welcomes PM's 'positive' statements
Lebanon's Hezbollah bloc in parliament says Prime Minister Saad Hariri's return to the country and 'positive remarks' is 'promising,' sends signal that matters 'can return to normal.'
7:51AM ( 2 hours ago )
Poll: Many don't want to talk politics this Thanksgiving
A new poll shows that more than a third of Americans dread the prospect of political talk over Thanksgiving
3:00AM ( 7 hours ago )
The Latest: Roy Moore thanks Trump in new fundraising appeal
Republican Roy Moore is touting President Donald Trump's near-endorsement of him in a new fundraising email to supporters
9:02PM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
UN hopes sex misconduct cases buoy efforts to help women
The head of the U.N. women's agency is hoping to capitalize on the attention around sexual harassment, abuse and rape.
3:28PM ( 19 hours ago )
Did you 'like' Russian propaganda? Facebook will clue you in
Did you 'like' Russian propaganda? Facebook will clue you in ... up to a point
2:14PM ( 20 hours ago )
New York tabs share 'I'm With Perv' headlines on Trump
President Trump's hometown tabloid newspapers have identical cover headlines to report his endorsement of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of child molestation
12:45PM ( 21 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
China stock slump weighs on global markets
European stock markets were weighed down Thursday by the earlier slump in China's main stock market to its lowest level since September. Trading levels were relatively modest though with U.S. markets closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.
7:52AM ( 2 hours ago )
Pressure grows on German Social Democrats in govt impasse
Pressure growing on German Social Democrats in government impasse
7:51AM ( 2 hours ago )
Global stocks slightly lower after Fed minutes release
Global stock markets were generally slightly lower Thursday after Fed minutes indicated it is likely to raise interest rates next month
5:02AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Business
The Latest: Trump tells military 'We're really winning'
President Donald Trump tells military members 'We're really winning' against US foes
9:55AM ( 33 minutes ago )
Macy's parade begins with balloons, bands and security
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has stepped off with soaring balloons and high-stepping bands as police go all-out to secure it in a year marked by attacks on outdoor gathering spots.
9:52AM ( 36 minutes ago )
Sound heard in Argentine sub search could be explosion
Argentina's navy says that a sound detected during the search for a missing submarine is consistent with that of an explosion _ an ominous development in the hunt for the vessel with 44 crew members
9:51AM ( 37 minutes ago )
Myanmar, Bangladesh sign agreement on Rohingya refugees
Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed an agreement covering the return of Rohingya Muslims who fled across their mutual border to escape violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state
9:44AM ( 45 minutes ago )
Lebanese PM Hariri assures bankers stability comes first
Lebanese PM Hariri assures regional banking conference that Lebanon's stability remains his primary concern
9:43AM ( 46 minutes ago )