A Year After Al Franken's Visit, Vermont Dems React to His Scandal | True 802 | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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A Year After Al Franken's Visit, Vermont Dems React to His Scandal

Published November 22, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated December 12, 2017 at 3:17 p.m.

  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Sen. Al Franken

What a difference a year makes. Last November, former "Saturday Night Live" satirist and U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) brought his trademark smirk and fundraising prowess to Vermont to stump for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter. Just days before she lost to Republican Phil Scott, Burlington crowds welcomed Franken with laughs and loud applause.

Now he's being pilloried as yet another groper — the latest outing triggered by the New York Times exposé on Miramax cofounder Harvey Weinstein.

What do Vermont Dems make of Franken now? Minter, for one, was chastened by the news that he allegedly forced a kiss on a woman and was photographed reaching for her breasts as she slept during a USO tour in 2006. A photo that caught him in the act started circulating last week.

"Obviously, this is incredibly disrespectful, unacceptable behavior," Minter told Seven Days Monday. "It's incredibly disappointing." But she qualified her criticism, noting that, "unlike many others," Franken is acknowledging his actions. "He has apologized."

Franken said he's sorry for the incident involving California broadcast journalist Leeann Tweeden in 2006. He has not commented publicly on another allegation, that he grabbed a different woman's behind while posing for a photo in 2010.

The allegations about various men are troubling, Minter said, but it's encouraging that women are feeling safe coming forward with their experiences. Hopefully, this movement means "that what is considered acceptable behavior is going to change from here going forward," said Minter, now president and CEO of Special Olympics Vermont.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) accompanied Franken on his 2016 rounds in Vermont. Like Minter, Leahy offered a sobering response to the allegations.

"I don't condone this action, nor does he," Leahy said, referring to the Tweeden photo allegation. "He's apologized rather profusely, and, in fact, he asked for an Ethics Committee investigation before anybody else did. He's been a very effective senator."

Should Franken resign?

"Then is Donald Trump going to resign, when he's admitted to doing a lot more? I say that rhetorically," Leahy told Seven Days. "Let's see what the Ethics Committee comes up with."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Frankly Speaking"