A report from the New Yorker indicates that seven Democratic and independent senators, including Patrick Leahy, Heidi Heitkamp, Tammy Duckworth, Angus King, Jeff Merkley, and Tom Udall all “regret” the way they handled the allegations. The quotes, compiled by the Guardian, are pretty emphatic:
Leahy, who was first elected to the Senate 45 years ago, told the magazine that calling for Franken’s departure was “one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made”.
Heitkamp said: “If there’s one decision I’ve made that I would take back, it’s the decision to call for his resignation. It was made in the heat of the moment, without concern for exactly what this was.”
Franken himself claims to have suffered from depression in the aftermath, and told the New Yorker that he regrets resigning. “I’m angry at my colleagues who did this,” he said. “I think they were just trying to get past one bad news cycle.”
Here are the accusations:
Franken’s fall was stunningly swift: he resigned only three weeks after Leeann Tweeden, a conservative talk-radio host, accused him of having forced an unwanted kiss on her during a 2006 U.S.O. tour. Seven more women followed with accusations against Franken; all of them centered on inappropriate touches or kisses.
Jane Mayer, the New Yorker writer, investigates the originating incident fully, and casts doubt on certain parts of the story, such as the claim that a sketch in which Franken kisses his co-star on a USO Tour was written specifically for Leean Tweeden, the women who accused him. Mayer goes on to describe the other seven incidents, which range in magnitude but all involve unwanted contact. His intentions in many of the incidents, however, are ambiguous.
Maybe Angus King demonstrates the halfway quality of the “regret” best:
“There’s no excuse for sexual assault,” he said. “But Al deserved more of a process. I don’t denigrate the allegations, but this was the political equivalent of capital punishment.”
The other quotes gathered toe the same line—we don’t want to say the accusations aren’t true, but maybe the punishment was too harsh.
A change.org petition urging him to retract his resignation said “there’s a difference between abuse and a mistake,” and the question is exactly where Franken’s actions fall on that spectrum.
Franken himself disputes several of the accounts in Mayer’s story, and is joined by friends and allies from his political and entertainment careers.