Updated:
Original:

Franken made a name for himself by demanding clear answers – but is currently unable to offer one up himself

The senator demands clarity from others – but is now struggling to offer that up himself.

The possible response, in Sen. Al Franken's mind, was binary.

"Please answer yes or no sir, I'm asking you a question."

That was from an exasperated Franken while he was speaking to Facebook lawyer Colin Stretch during an Oct. 31 Senate subcommittee hearing about Russian election meddling. 

Stretch, when faced with Franken's "A or B" list of potential answers, tried to pick "C" – an explanation. Which the second-term senator tersely reminded him wasn't an option.

"Just answer yes or no. Can you do that?" Franken, unrelenting, continued. "You're sophisticated, you're the chief legal counsel for Facebook. Please answer yes or no."

Franken has used this type of phrase often in 2017, usually during his dogged questioning of Trump administration nominees or high-profile corporate execs.

He asks a question, they try to talk around it, and he interjects: It's A or B. Yes or no. Those are your options, so give me a clear answer.

Yet the second-term senator is now on the other side, and having the same problem he has lambasted those others for.

Did it happen, or did it not?

Since the first inappropriate conduct allegations surfaced Nov. 16, Franken (through his office) has issued a parade of apologies. 

The initial one, in response to Leeann Tweeden's USO Tour story, was short:

"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.”

Hours later he offered an expanded apology, acknowledging the poor thinking behind the now-infamous photo, but reiterating he doesn't "remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does."

He also said he understands we need to listen to women's stories, apologized profusely, and promised to work hard to make it up to people.

In the time since, three more women have said Franken grabbed their butt during a public event.

The senator's responses have been new dishes cooked with the same ingredients: he's sorry, he remembers it differently or doesn't remember it at all, but "feels badly" or "feels terrible" those women felt the way they did, and knows it will take a lot of work to regain the trust of the people he represents.

He has not definitively answered whether the backside-grabbing incidents happened or not. 

Instead of options A or B, yes or no – even when confronted directly by reporters from WCCO, the Star Tribune or MPR – he has taken option C.

“I’ve met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations. I’m a warm person; I hug people," he said in a Thanksgiving statement. "I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women."

"My intent was not to make them feel uncomfortable," he told WCCO's Esme Murphy. "I don't remember these photographs, I don't remember the situations, but that was certainly not my intent. But my intent doesn't matter. What matters is that we have to respect women's experiences."

So, is Franken acknowledging these things happened?

Or is he denying the accusations?

These seem like simple questions with binary responses. Instead, we've gotten wishy-washy, noncommittal explanations and excuses.

Franken, who made a name for himself demanding clear answers, has so far been unable to offer one up himself. 

"Please answer yes or no sir, I'm asking you a question."

Next Up

superior national forest

Highway 1 reopens as Greenwood Fire is 80% contained

The highway has been closed for about a month.

covid, vaccine

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, September 20

Data in Monday reports includes the past Friday, not the weekend. Weekend data is released on Tuesdays.

ATV

Driver killed in ATV rollover crash north of Alexandria

The crash occurred in Douglas County Sunday evening.

Wikimedia Commons - COVID vaccine, pfizer, shot - Martin G

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine is effective in kids ages 5-11

The company plans to seek U.S. authorization for the age group soon.

storm, wall cloud, severe wather

Damaging winds, tornadoes again possible in Twin Cities Monday

Storms are expected to intensify during the early afternoon hours.

ambulance

3 people stabbed in suspected domestic incident in Crystal

A man who was injured has been detained in the incident.

police lights

Man surrenders after 12-hour standoff at Eagan home

There was a SWAT response early Sunday morning.

Related

Al Franken has to change a lot of minds if he wants to win back Minnesotans' trust

The senator vows he'll make amends – but recent polls show serious damage to his public standing.

Sen. Al Franken keeps a low public profile as fallout from groping photo continues

Here's a look at some of the big updates from the past couple days.

36 women from 'SNL' sign a letter saying Franken never acted inappropriately with them

Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman are among those who signed the letter vouching for their experience with Franken.

New Al Franken allegation: Woman says the senator grabbed her butt during State Fair photo

She told CNN it happened during a photo at the Minnesota State Fair.

Al Franken's political fall came as fast as his rise to Senate stardom

Franken seemed to defy fate by winning a U.S. Senate seat – yet would reach political stardom anyway.

Tina Smith will take over for Sen. Al Franken by early January

The senator hasn't given a specific date since announcing his resignation.

Video: Sen. Al Franken – 'I have to admit that it feels like we are losing the war for truth'

Watch this short clip from Franken's final Senate floor speech, in which he argues for honest debate.

5 things to know about Tina Smith, who is replacing Al Franken in the Senate

Smith was appointed to take over Al Franken's Senate seat.