Al Franken is a well-known jerk. I would say that just about everyone who has dealt with him personally knows it, including Senator Amy Klobuchar and his other Senate colleagues. One can see the pure manifestation of this aspect of his character in his treatment of Leeann Tweeden as set forth in her powerful first-person account of his unwanted attention.
Franken has issued two statements in response to Tweeden’s account today. First he offered a cursory attempt at exculpation. As his colleagues abandoned him, Franken sensed he couldn’t talk his way out of this jam. He abjectly apologized and joined the call for the Senate Ethics Committee investigation of his own conduct.
Very big of him, but more calculating than generous. He can reasonably hope that the Ethics Committee will give him cover in the slow moving gears of Senate procedures while the storm blows over.
The abjectness of Franken’s second statement should count for nothing. Tweeden’s account of Franken’s harassment includes a photograph that caught Franken in the act of sexual assault. Despite his effort to say something to mitigate it in his first statement, mitigation is impossible under the circumstances. His initial statement reveals his character and aggravates his misconduct. It is otherwise worthless.
The photograph is a killer. It is incriminating, but it is more than that. In the context of Tweeden’s account, it is devastating. It shows Franken gleefully humiliating Tweeden. It demonstrates his malice.
Sexual misconduct of the Franken kind is almost never a one-off. It is characteristic or compulsive. There are undoubtedly other women like Tweeden who have received Franken’s unwanted attention. One can only hope that they will have the courage to come out and face down the jerk.