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.

Here's a look at some of the big headlines from over the weekend around Sen. Al Franken, and radio host Leeann Tweeden's announcement that he forcibly kissed and groped her during a 2006 USO tour.

A (brief) Franken comment during SNL's Weekend Update 

Franken spent 15 years with Saturday Night Live as a writer and performer, and was part of a team that won four Emmys for outstanding writing during his main two stints there.

Naturally, people were wondering how the show – which has relied on politics as a topic – would handle the controversy surrounding a former cast member.

Turns out, like this:

"Now I know this photo looks bad," Weekend Update co-host Colin Jost starts, while the photo of Franken grabbing a sleeping Leeann Tweeden's breasts is shown over his shoulder, "but remember, it also is bad."

Fellow Weekend Update host Michal Che noted Trump called out Franken, yet not Roy Moore

"But Franken is a liberal, and Trump and Moore are conservatives, and in this country everybody has to pick a side," Che explained, before landing with: "Except for me, I think they're all b-----s."

Cut from Letterman special

Staying in the entertainment space, Franken was set to appear in a PBS tribute to his good friend, David Letterman. But he's now out of the show.

PBS told Variety having the now-contaminated Franken on the program "would distract from the show’s purpose as a celebration of American humor."


What was David Letterman doing in Minnesota with Al Franken?

So the senator will be cut out of the show, which was filmed on Oct. 22 and will debut Nov. 20.

Franken says he won't resign

Since the allegation was first published, some commentators and writers have been calling for Franken to step down

A Franken spokesperson told MPR the senator – in his second term, up for re-election in 2020 – won't do so, and added Franken is "reflecting." For a couple of the (many) perspectives on this, read these two takes: 

Franken has called for an ethics investigation into himself, a request that has been echoed by many of his colleagues.

Tweeden has said she accepts Franken's apology, and noted she's not calling on him to resign.

More former staffers comment

The senator has kept a pretty low profile over the past six days. His social mediaaccounts – fairly active in the past – have been quiet aside from his apology statement to Tweeden. There have been no news releases from his office since a Wednesday criticism of the Republican tax plan.

But a group of women who previously worked for Sen. Franken has publicly vouched for his behavior around them while they were part of his team.

Eight women initially released the statement Friday, saying:

"Many of us spent years working for Senator Franken in Minnesota and Washington. In our time working for the Senator, he treated us with the utmost respect. He valued our work and our opinions and was a champion for women both in the legislation he supported and in promoting women to leadership roles in our offices."

The next day six more women signed it, bringing the total to 14. Two of them put out further remarks. 

Alexandra Fetissoff, a former communications director for Franken, said in her six years there she "never experienced, saw, or heard anything about the Senator treating women with anything but respect.”


Leeann Tweeden reads letter from Franken on The View

“So much of what we did as a Senate office focused on trying to create workplaces for other women that reflected our own – and that all came from Senator Franken. It was a safe and supportive place where you could ask questions, grow, and learn," she said.

Natalie Volin Lehr, his former political director, said: “This isn’t the Al Franken I know. I worked for him for seven years, several of which were focused on women’s outreach and related policy work." 

Lehr called him a "staunch supporter of women’s rights," and commended his policy work and employment of women in key positions as evidence of his "commitment to empowering women."

Next Up