By Jeet Heer
The Weinstein Effect has hit Capitol Hill, and the first politician to be accused of sexual misconduct in this charged moment is a Democrat: News radio anchor Leeann Tweeden on Thursday accused Minnesota Senator Al Franken of kissing and groping her without consent during a USO tour in 2006. “You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later and be ashamed,” she wrote in a blog post.
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Franken first told reporters, inadequately, “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.” After widespread criticism, he issued a more forceful statement: “It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.”
This year, Franken emerged as an outside contender for the presidency in 2020. The former Saturday Night Live comedian, elected in 2009, is an effective and studious senator who’s earned the respect of his peers—and, lately, the fear of his opponents, as he’s been one of the Senate’s most ruthless interrogators of Trump nominees and one of his party’s most entertaining critics of the president. Now, his job is in serious jeopardy—he’s facing an ethics investigation, which he himself called for—and he’s out of the 2020 conversation.
Who’s next? Because there will be more allegations against Hill politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike. And it’s safe to assume that all of the accused will be men. That is one of many reasons—in fact, the least of the reasons—why Democrats should resolve right now to nominate a woman for president in 2020. Bernie, Biden, Brown, Booker—sorry, guys. You’re all sitting this one out.