When the allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) first surfaced, I was outraged and felt betrayed. As the story unfolded, however, I will confess that I was embarrassed that I had allowed myself to be so easily manipulated by what now appears to be a brilliantly orchestrated political hit job.
We are in an era of #MeToo; many of us have raw emotions close to the surface; we don’t want to call “bullshit!” on a woman because we know all too well the sting of slut-shaming and victim-blaming; we know the humiliation attendant with sexual harassment. When we are called to sisterhood, we show up.
And, that’s exactly what abusive assholes like Steve Bannon knew would happen. Yes, he’s a brilliant strategist. He’s also a ruthless and evil bastard who relishes the abuse of power. He needs a foil for his damaged candidate Judge Roy Moore. #NoMoore. As a bonus, he may take out Donald Trump’s chief critic ~ a man with rare integrity ~ a man unafraid to speak truth to power: Sen. Al Franken.
I want to thank everyone I’ve been blessed to meet via Facebook who brought valuable insights and information to this issue. We had a respectful dialogue, and I think we have surfaced the truth.
Back in the day, I worked with Gerry Skoning at Seyfarth, Shaw, Fairweather & Geraldson, the attorney who “wrote the book” on defending powerful men from charges of sexual harassment. When I see his strategy playing out (Judge Roy Moore, Bill Cosby, etc.), I instantly know the man is guilty as charged. Sen. Al Franken, however, came forward with an apology so many of us have waited decades to hear from just one man. He wasn’t operating out of Gerry’s “predators’ play book.” When I read it, I realized that I needed to examine the evidence carefully and consider the law. Ultimately, I realized we’d all been played. And, it pissed me off.
When we hear allegations of sexual misconduct, we tend to take them at face value. Most people don’t take the time to check the legal elements to see whether they have been met. We hear a wide variety of inappropriate sexual behavior categorized as sexual harassment. I think it is time to examine the legal elements for sexual harassment and apply them to the facts of this case:
Harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of Sec. 703 of Title VII. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (3) such conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. [Source: American Bar Association]
Back in the day, it galled me how many women were more than willing trade sexual favors for career advancement. These photos of Leeann Tweeden’s sexual aggressiveness cause me to wonder whether the person who actually said “no” was Al Franken. That’s what has always bugged me about this story. He is totally devoted to his wife and isn’t the kind of guy who would “go out for hamburger when he had steak at home.” Predators retaliate. The question is who is the real predator?
There’s a reason the accuser doesn’t want an investigation: she knows the legal elements for sexual assault and harassment haven’t, in fact, been met. Sen. Franken, in contrast, wants an investigation so that he can clear his name. Guilty people don’t do this. They rely instead on Gerry’s playbook. They slut-shame the victim and try to discredit her.
Bannon’s fired up Trump’s base by ignoring Trump’s admission on the Access Hollywood tape that he’s the pussy-grabber-in-chief ~ a shameless serial sexual predator. He’s trotted out Pres. Bill Clinton’s impeachment for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky to suggest that Democrats have a double standard. I’ve always thought this was a case of sexual harassment. And, I thought the only person who had the right to toss him out of the White House was Hillary. Hell, I would have helped her pack his sorry ass up.
In 1992, I joined with labor attorney Susan Hammer and Oregon Women Lawyers (OWL) to oust Sen. Bob Packwood (R-OR) from office. Over dinner, OWL members chatted about whether we believed Anita Hill, who alleged that SCOTUS candidate Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her when he was charged with prosecuting sexual harassment at the EEOC.
Every woman at the table except me had been on the receiving end of Packwood’s penchant for tongue hockey. I was new to Oregon and hadn’t had the misfortune of meeting him yet. He was gross and creepy. The Oregonian didn’t take the allegations seriously, and the Washington Post didn’t timely publish their investigation. I was surprised to recently discover that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) initiated the ethics hearing which culminated in Packwood’s resignation. Sen. McConnell is one of Judge Moore’s chief critics.
Let’s not forget that Rep. Denny Hastert (R-IL) was the chief proponent of Pres. Clinton’s impeachment. We didn’t know at the time that Hastert was a pedophile who had committed statutory rape with several boys on his high school wresting team. When it comes to sexual predators, the GOP has their own dirty laundry. So, how about we ditch the double standard bullshit and focus on the facts of the case.
Was Al Franken’s behavior inappropriate, unprofessional, and offensive? Yes. His career was founded on SNL’s “wild and crazy guys” culture. He’s matured and now admits that much of their humor was offensive. His accuser called him on the kiss during rehearsal. As you can see from the photo, he complied with her demand to kiss her on the cheek, and it certainly doesn’t appear her work environment was hostile.
Sen. Franken’s apology had me in tears. It was humble, contrite, and sincere. I’ve waited decades to hear just one guy apologize for what happened to so many of us throughout our careers. His accuser has accepted his apology and would like for all of us to move on.
If Sen. Al Franken was, in fact, a predator, we would have heard a chorus of #MeToo by now. We didn’t. The sound we are hearing is Steve Bannon’s laughter. He suckered us once again. #NoMoore
“A Survivor’s Defense of Al Franken” by Dr. G.S. Potter, 11/22/17