Earlier this summer, a New Yorker piece cast doubt on conservative talk show host Leeann Tweeden’s allegations of misconduct against former senator Al Franken. In its wake, some of the colleagues who originally called for Franken’s resignation have expressed remorse, Franken has publicly wished he hadn’t been so quick to resign, and somehow this has all become Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s fault. But in her August 20 interview with The Daily, Gillibrand wonders why no one is talking about due process for the seven other women who accused him.
The New Yorker piece focuses mostly on inconsistencies in Tweeden’s story and character references from friends of Franken. But on The Daily, Gillibrand argues that Franken’s other seven accusers are just as credible as Franken’s supporters argue he is:
“There were eight credible allegations from what I read, and [the New Yorker piece] only seemed to delve into one,” Gillibrand said. “Not the one about the person who served in the military, not the one about the congressional staffer, not the one about the former elected official, not the few who were groped at the state fair.”
She also calls attention to the fact that, at the time, Franken himself seemed to agree that he needed to reassess his behavior:
“He said, and I quote, ‘I crossed a line for some women and I know that and any number is too many.’ The fact that he said he had to be much more careful and sensitive in the future. Those were his words after the third allegation. So I think just picking apart one allegation is really harmful. Harmful to the larger moment that we’re in.”
That “larger moment” includes the reaction to Me Too, which includes endless debates around whether the movement has gone “too far.” Franken, who quit his job before an ethics investigation, is a poster boy for that argument. Gillibrand, who called for that resignation and refuses to apologize, is a lightning rod for moralizing about the dangers of judging too quickly.
But in the wake of lost donors and low polling numbers, Gillibrand does seem eager to talk about possible “paths to redemption,” not for herself but for men like Mark Halperin, the political commentator accused of rubbing his erect penis on a colleague who just landed a new book deal, as well as Franken, who seems to be getting a second chance because his actions are perceived as more akin to Joe Biden cluelessness than Harvey Weinstein monstrousness.
On Monday, Gillibrand told the crowd at a Washington Post event that it wasn’t for her to judge when these men got their second chances but she doubts forgiveness is possible without a bit of humility on the part of the accused. She reiterated that message in the interview with The Daily, providing her roadmap to public redemption for the men of Me Too:
“I could imagine someone who wants to reemerge in whatever industry they’re in just needs to apologize, whatever the appropriate act of taking responsibility is, having the humility to recognize you’re wrong, and having the grace to seek forgiveness. That’s all. It’s not hard it’s just very rare.”
Meanwhile, there does not seem to be any roadmap to redemption for women accused of judging men accused of harassment too harshly.