Slate Takes the Bait

Hannity chick

Sigh, okay. Here goes —  I am about to attempt something genuinely radical, folks. It’s going to require some “nuance”, yes, and some critical thinking – on both my part and yours. Because, dear reader, I am about to assume the heretical role of defending an accused sexual assaulter, on the heels of an article I wrote just yesterday, wherein I ripped a man accused of the very same thing.

Except for the fact that this isn’t the same thing, and that’s the point. But you wouldn’t know that if you happened to peruse the headlines of this morning, the largest of which proclaimed “Al Franken Should Resign Immediately”. The grounds for this, according to Mr. Mark Joseph Stern, are based upon the recent allegations that Mr. Franken groped and harassed a former playboy-model-turned-Fox-News-guest-turned-morning-news-show-host. And after skimming the original piece myself, my initial impulse was certainly not to doubt the victim’s statements. But try as I might, some irrevocably broken and cynical corner of my psyche forced an eyebrow-cock at the sight of the following words:

“Fox News.”

“Okay, okay, anothergodlessliberal, we all know Fox News is a propoganda outfit working in service of the Republican Party. But come on – there’s photographic evidence of the crimes that she’s alleged!” Indeed. One photograph of Mr. Franken pretending to honk her breasts through a bulletproof army jacket, at the end of their mutual comedy tour. Now look, I don’t know about you, but it just seems like it’s playing pretty fast and loose with the English language to refer to this behavior as “groping.” What’s more, if the gonzo-reporting of a number of twitter eggs is to be believed (which is certainly not a given), the photographer himself has apparently claimed that Ms. Tweeden was only pretending to be asleep for the photo opp, and was part of the gag herself — which, if true, would completely undermine this allegation.

The second allegation is more serious, and it relates to the invasion of the victim’s mouth by the Funny Man Senator’s tongue. I won’t recount the entire incident here, but there were two main takeaways from the victim’s description of this encounter. The first is that Franken acted pretty gross and creepy, and that he came on way too strong. The second is that she verbally agreed to accept the kiss. Of course, she clearly felt at least somewhat compelled to agree, and was acting under duress – but she did, in fact, agree to kiss the man. Also, for what it’s worth, Franken immediately disputed her rendition of the story.

Friends, I am not typically one to engage in whataboutism. But before we go calling on a Democratic Senator to resign on the basis of scant evidence of creepy-but-not-criminal conduct, perhaps we would be wise to remember that the President of the United States has been accused of far worse, and last I checked, there aren’t any Republicans calling for the Boy King’s resignation.

I am also not typically one to employ ad hominem attacks. But this woman has repeatedly appeared on panels with the likes of Greg Guttfeld and Sean Hannity, no doubt nodding right along with every regurgitated talking point they barfed out into the airwaves.

Finally, I would point out that the timing could truly not be better for the Republicans to dredge up some right-wing playboy bunny with a Democratic Senator-shaped chip on her shoulder. If Democrats and mainstream news outlets don’t think that these kinds of tactics will be employed by the Republicans in 2020, then I’m afraid they’re giving them far too much credit.

So, Mark Stern, while I understand the impulse to boost one’s article stats, my suggestion would be to wait until the actual facts come in before demanding that we cannibalize our own. And here’s the thing – if and when it becomes clear that Mr. Franken has behaved this way towards other victims, I will be the first one to the feast. But for God’s sake, let’s at least wait until there’s evidence he’s cooked before putting a fork in his career.

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